Friday, 24 August 2012

Locally listed buildings (2)

In addition to several brief comments which have been appended to my previous piece on this subject, I have received two longer contributions from correspondents, which I felt justified a post to themselves.

Andy Ward writes:

“I don't have a problem with the principle of an LPA identifying buildings that have local architectural or historic merit where they fall below national standards for statutory listing, or are relatively isolated from other buildings of quality and therefore couldn't be placed in a conservation area.

“An underlying problem is the arbitrary nature with which most LPA's go about identifying local buildings of interest and then making information on them available.

“Some do at least go through the process of adopting their local list as an SPD (e.g. Cheltenham), thereby giving it more weight as a material consideration, and giving the LPA the opportunity to adopt clear criteria for including buildings in a list. However, this would not seem to be a practical means of adding, removing or amending entries on an ad hoc basis.

“(A passing thought: does the NPPF put the seal on the conclusion that a local list that has not been adopted as SPD and has no relevant development plan policy should be given negligible or even no weight?)

“Also, any owner or long-term tenant of a property should have a right to be consulted by the LPA before their property is added to a list, which clearly doesn't happen most of the time. Not that this would be much help without a formal appeal or arbitration process in the event of an objection.

“The local list concept is driven by the idea that it would be a shame for a building of interest to be demolished, or inappropriately altered or extended, just because it isn't good enough to be statutorily listed or placed in a conservation area. (I could be cynical and say that it is also driven by the desire of some officials to meddle, interfere and dictate without compunction.)

“There is, of course, an alternative to local lists that offers interested parties the chance to object and appeal within an existing legal framework. All an LPA needs to do when it identifies a building of local interest is to serve an Article 4 Direction.

“This would immediately require the LPA to be a little more exacting in its analysis of the worth of a building, what with the compensation risk for a start, and those affected would have a proper means of challenging the decision.

“With this option already available I don't see why LPAs should have the right to have any regard whatsoever to a local list: a building is either valuable enough to serve an Article 4 Direction on it or the LPA is not warranted in seeking to prevent demolition, alterations or extensions on the basis of what is ultimately an arbitrary and undemocratic prevention of the exercise of development rights.”

And CT contributes the following thought:

“My understanding is that the national list may only consider the rarity or uniqueness of a building in the national context.

“Of course, other merits are to be expected besides quantity remaining; but assuming other merits are present then local listing offers the possibility of identifying buildings rare locally that would not make the national cut if ten-a-penny in some distant town. Perhaps still not enough to justify the entire practice but I thought I would raise it.

“If ever the local listing is implied as giving some protection beyond that of whichever local plan policy it links back to, then this would be a cause for concern. I have not come across such behaviours though.

“PPS5 made the shift from the binary designated/undesignated, to a spectrum of possibilities that "includes" (non exhaustive) identified heritage assets, which could be either by the LPA or informally identified by communities or the applicant. I think we may be stuck with this until... well, the next Parliament anyway.”

This prompts me to add the following further comments:

The definition of ‘heritage assets’ in the NPPF (picking up from the former PPS5) includes locally listed buildings (as David Merson pointed out in his comment on my previous post). Thus the exclusion of the presumption in favour of ‘sustainable development’ in paragraph 14 and footnote (9) of the NPPF, to which I have previously drawn attention [see “The presumption in favour of sustainable development” - Saturday, 30 June 2012] has the effect of excluding locally listed buildings from this presumption. It does not appear to me that one can infer from the NPPF that local lists should have been formally adopted as SPD in order to benefit from the effect of paragraph 14 and footnote 9. Bearing in mind the lack of formality with which these local lists could be compiled, it seems to me that this could introduce a very undesirable constraint on development without due process.

Like Dr Anton Lang, I think we already have far too many listed buildings and conservation areas, without adding ‘locally listed buildings’ on top of these. As long ago as April 2010 I proposed, through the alter ego of ‘James Hacker MP’, a fundamental reappraisal of these designations, conducted at a central government level [see “REAL Reform of the Planning System” - Tuesday, 20 April 2010]. However, I don’t think I could go so far as Dr Lang in proposing a strict numerical limit on such designations in any one area.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why not start a gallery of pointless listed buildings. Two immediately come to mind:
1 - A 1947 prefab school building near Enfield situated in the middle of a 1930's housing estate. Now being renovated, insulated and waterproofed to make it fit for purpose as a school for 400+ children.

2 - A small(10 x 3m) former brick built pumphouse in the middle of nowhere (AONB)converted to an inadequate holiday cottage (too small, shabby, cold) but that can't be modernised because of it is a "rare and unique" example of its type.

Of course we should protect that what is worth protecting but why should we all be condemned to live life in a museum!