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Contributed by Dr Angela Drakakis-Smith

 

Britain has been described as ‘an old country’.  As such, it comes with a long history of change.  Change entails construction, destruction and rebuilding.  In the past, large-scale demolition/destruction was left, in the main to warfare and natural disasters.  In the modern age, developers, national and local government slum clearance and regeneration programmes have taken on that function.  Where redevelopment/ clearance/regeneration is ‘designed’ and targeted the question then becomes, who decides what should go and what should remain or indeed on which area the demolition ball should fall?

Protection of sorts has been afforded to certain areas under the Conservation Area legislation, introduced in the Civic Amenities Act of 1967 – the last post war era of slash and burn.  Conservation Areas are of special architectural or historical interest, thought worthy to be preserved in character or appearance via preservation measures or enhancement.   It should not surprise that currently there are 9300 such areas in the UK.  When English heritage undertook a survey of these areas recently, it found that 1 in 7 conservation areas were at risk and only 13% had Article 4 Directions to prevent damage via small-scale changes.  Aligned to this initiative of preservation is the Listed Buildings initiative and more latterly the Local Listing project which appears slow to get off the ground, and the preservation of archaeological sites.

For some time the funding of these initiatives has been pegged or cut back which means that criteria for listing and preservation has been increasingly tightened so that many buildings of local interest slip through the net. 

The current legislation and initiatives being proposed by national government has suggested that in the interests of economy, archaeological sites be included under the conservation and listed building site umbrella.  It is unlikely that funding will be similarly merged.  Thus local authorities and local people will have to make very hard decisions regarding where this funding is to be spent.  In real terms the number of listed and preserved items put on register will be reduced.  It could also mean that sites on register could be allowed simply to crumble because there won’t be enough money to preserve them.

Aligned to this is the planning legislation which will allow the planning process to work faster.  Some projects will not even need planning permission and it seems that developers’ arms will be strengthened in getting projects through quicker and with less public input and hindrance.  Government is also suggesting that the petitioning legislation be amended to include only limited subjects (which they have suggested – and planning is not one of them) rather than the current system of petitions on any subject.  And so the noose tightens.

In the short term, discourse centres on the possible savings to be made by introducing such measures.  Figures have even been attached to these savings.  However, in the long term such measures could mark and even hasten the decline of Britain’s built and historic heritage.  It remains to be seen how far individuals will go to preserve it.

Aligned to this is the planning legislation which will allow the planning process to work faster.  Some projects will not even need planning permission and it seems that developers’ arms will be strengthened in getting projects through quicker and with less public input and hindrance.  Government is also suggesting that the petitioning legislation be amended to include only limited subjects (which they have suggested – and planning is not one of them) rather than the current system of petitions on any subject.  And so the noose tightens.

Even as we speak the Home Farm buildings at Keele have recently been ‘delisted’, and could  thus be demolished at any time by a developer.  If you have a view on this be prepared to share it now!

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