Introduction – the law has protected the UKs precious and rare buildings over time. Following the industrialization on the UK and the rapid expansion of population and the massive re-building program following WW2, it became obvious that our nations heritage had to be protected through the legal system. Today all surviving buildings built before 1700 (and up to 1840) are listed. The main characteristics for judging whether or not a building should be listed after that time are it’s architectural and historic interest; whether it links to our national history and it’s relationship to examples of heritage. The legal history of the protection and conservation of important buildings is structured around the following statutes, guidelines and principles:-
Statutory Regulation – with regard to homeowners ability to change any aspect of their listed building or property located in a conservation zone is as follows:-
England and Wales
- Town & Country Planning Act 1990
- Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Act 1990 – no person shall execute or cause to be executed any works for the demolition of a listed building or for it’s alteration or extension in any manner which would affect it’s character as a building of special architectural or historic interest, unless the works are authorised.
- Town & Country Planning Act 1997
- Planning Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Act 1997
Local Authority Guidance – from the United Kingdom Acts of Parliament:-
- England: Planning Policy Guidance 15: Planning and the Historic Environment (PPG15) (September 1994) (amended by Environment Circular 14/97) – sets out the Governments policies for the identification and protection of historic buildings, conservation areas and other aspects of the historic environment.
- Scotland: Memorandum of Guidance on Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas (1998) – The Memorandum and it’s Appendices serves to remind owners, agents and planning authorities of factors that should be considered and avenues that should be explored when new work affects the character of buildings and places. The advice given should indicate to owners and agents what they should bear in mind when drawing up a proposal, and offer a degree of certainty as to what is likely to be acceptable.
- Wales: (Welsh Office Circular 61/96) Planning and the Historic Environment – Historic Buildings and Conservation Areas
Local Authority Plans these differ between local councils depending on the nature of the buildings in the area, the feeling of local residents, historical aspects of areas an the strategy and guidelines drawn up by local bodies. Local Authorities write down their own ‘Local Plan’ sometimes known as the ‘Unitary Development Plan’. This summarises the authorities development guidelines for projects affecting environmental, traffic and land use. It also incorporates the bodies local plans and objectives for local improvements and will incorporate maps, and illustrations for public consultation.
Ecclesiastical Exemption (1994) means only churches and chapels of the six denominations are exempt from listed building regulations (assuming operating procedures are exercised and the building still is a religious place of worship).
Secretary of State Referrals – local authorities cant allow building works or demolition of any Grade I or II* building without requesting the permission of the Secretary of State of the UK Government.
Day to Day Implementation of Framework – since April 2005, English Heritage has been be responsible for the administration of the listing system in England. In Scotland the body responsible is Historic Scotland.
Are we on the verge of a new Grade for Listed Buildings?
Conservation and Heritage are more on the minds of the population of the United Kingdom than at any time in living memory. Certainly within the capital there is an enormous interest and kudos in owning a listed building and it is interesting to look at photographs of some areas of the capital circa 1950 and look the same locations today. Most have become gentrified which is an Estate Agents estates term for conservation and restoration, however, it is fair to say that some of our wonderful listed buildings have probably not looked so good since the day they were first constructed.
Buildings provide us with perhaps the moist visible record of our countrys history and culture and allow us to drop in to the past to view homes of people from another time. Anyone that has witnessed the flat fronted Georgian townhouses in parts of London can get a sense what it would have been like to live in the capital all those years ago. Architecture; helps us remember and visualise, how we treat our listed buildings in terms of conservation and care reflects our society and cultural environment.
However we are on the threshold of many changes in our country, many being introduced for health and safety reasons and many because of climatic change resulting in the need to conserve energy and for buildings to be more energy efficient. This is quite a concern for owners of listed buildings as this type of property doesnt always lend itself to modern improvements.
It is being suggested in some circles that perhaps a new listing of Grade III should be introduced which would allow for a virtual reality listing. This would allow the owner of the building to conserve by record rather than by fabric certain parts of the building. This relates mainly to the interior. It is agued that the interiors of many grade listed homes are of little consequence or interest to the public as few have access inside, it is really the street scene that adds to the character of an area and it is this that needs to be protected. Protecting the façade is seen as the most important requirement although some people argue that once the interior is replaced, then the whole concept and purpose of the building is destroyed. It will be interesting to see how this develops but one thing is for sure we live in changing times and maybe our attitude to conservation and heritage will change as well.
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