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)


  1. One of the old Cornish districts had a similar problem in St Ives a few years ago with several hundred breaches. Those they enforced against they gave 40 years compliance periods on - they have found a lot of work gets rectified when the owners die and property is old on because of problems getting a mortgage.

  2. When I worked in Devon in the 90's I was told that many of the listed buildings down there were done on a 'drive-by' basis in the mid-late 80's. This was done in a rush (for reasons I was told but now forget) and there weren't many people available to do them.

    A key outcome of this was that many (and I really mean a lot) of listed buildings in Devon - especially the bit I worked in - had short descriptions that made no mention of the interior. Having been in many of them there ws often more of interest inside the building than outside.

    And, sticking to the point of the article, there were inevitable mistakes because it was done in a rush.

    Personally, if there was the time and the money I'd favour a review of all listed buildings (startinng at the bottom, not with the Is and II*s), with the aim being to properly spell out what the intrinsic architectural and or historic value of a building is, both inside and out. Importantly, and with all due respect to those that have written may of the current listings, such a review should avoid the anorak descriptions we currently have to put up with.

  3. And this from Development Control Practise:

    Windows in Conservation Area’s
    Breach is common place: In (Waveney 12/06/02 DCS No.046-589-163), which concerned unauthorised replacement windows in a conservation area, an inspector commented that "I appreciate that the council aims to prevent further loss of character in accordance with national advice in general, and that English Heritage has encouraged the council to take a firmer line on alterations in conservation areas. Nevertheless, in this instance, changes have already taken place within many other buildings in the general surrounding area to the extent that windows such as these have become common place and part of the character of the conservation area". She concluded that the windows would have a neutral effect on the character and appearance of the conservation area and so quashed the EN. The council challenged the decision in the High Court on no fewer than six grounds, including that it was irrational in the Wednesbury sense. However, the court ruled that the Inspector had not erred in law, had exercised her planning judgement properly and had given adequate reasons for her decision - Waveney DC v SoS 5/11/02.