Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Listed Building Control problems (continued)
Where I receive a substantial or lengthy comment in response to a post, I prefer to give it a post of its own rather than tucking it away in a comments box. So I am very pleased to publish this item from a reader in North Wales who, for obvious reasons, would prefer to remain anonymous.
Commenting in response to my piece on the current listed buildings enforcement row in Llandudno, he writes: “As a planning consultant based in Conwy, this is creating an almighty stir; one premises that I know of undertook modernisation in the 1980's to pebble-dash, insert UPVC windows and RWGs etc with the benefit of Council Grant Aid. Conwy has used 'exceptional' circumstances on at least one major Promenade Hotel to justify UPVC and has never really come up with anything to justify that ‘relaxation’.
It has a development plan adopted in 1981 (LP) and 1993 (SP).
I don’t have an axe to grind; far from it, and I'd be the first to support robust action where appropriate, but I find myself wholeheartedly endorsing this post; heavy handed persecution of the owner of premises (many of who won’t even have carried out the works themselves) that sustain a lovely resort will do nothing to foster the spirit of trust and engagement that will be needed to resolve this.
I assisted (very belatedly) on a recent appeal on an unlisted building within this Conservation Area. Despite evidence that 50+ percent of buildings had been altered with UPVC the Inspector held the character was harmed and test of preserve or enhance not met. In the circumstances (following S73A to retain works including replacement UPVC) the dismissal was unsurprising. (I would add that I was instructed after the LPA issued its hearing statement and advised the appellant to withdraw the appeal, sit tight and wait as bigger fish were about to be fried and he might get under the 4 yr bar if he was lucky and waited for a notice.
My concluding comment is that this authority has limited resources. A series of LB/174 inquiry cases would be extremely difficult for it to manage and resource. It would be far better for the LPA to look corporately and strategically with the hotel associations, ‘Visit Wales’, Welsh Government and CADW to secure a targeted programme of grant aid to assist in dealing with the worst examples and build some bridges. Many of these hotels are small family run enterprises that are marginal in terms of viability, where the cost of replacement may finally tip the balance against their survival.”
Maybe the answer is for the hoteliers and other affected property owners in Llandudno to pile in with robust s.174 appeals. Some political pressure could no doubt also be brought to bear at member level to put a stop to this nonsense. Like my anonymous contributor, I have no problem with firm enforcement action when it is justified, but it must be proportionate. Serving Listed Building Enforcement Notices on alterations carried out 25 or 30 years or more ago is not proportionate. A concerted approach by affected property owners in Llandudno might well stop this over-zealous LPA in its tracks, which could then be followed (as my correspondent suggests) by a co-ordinated and co-operative approach involving all interested parties.
© MARTIN H GOODALL (with due acknowledgement to my anonymous contributor)