Common heritage to get one definition
by Maev Kennedy, arts and heritage correspondent, The Guardian, Thursday April 8, 2004
Radical rethink beckons as pilot project looks to impose single register on old and new buildings, public and private sites
An attempt was launched yesterday to devise a single sensible list which can protect a redundant 19th-century steelworks in Sheffield, the imposing Victorian tombs and leaning marble crosses of Arnos Vale cemetery in Bristol, medieval water meadows in Hampshire, London Underground stations on the Piccadilly Line, ancient flint axe works in Cumbria - and the 32-storey Centre Point tower in London.
"We don't need to test it on simple cases, we need to test it on the most complex cases we can find," English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley said.
The 15 pilot projects, for the most radical reform since scheduled ancient monument and listed building protection was introduced over a century ago, include sites in private, public and mixed ownership.
The pilot projects involve reaching management agreements on what makes the sites special and valuable, and how those features should be preserved and enhanced.
The current listing system is frequently adversarial, pitting owners against the heritage quango, and operates mainly as crisis management. Buildings or sites are listed because of their historic importance or interest, but there is generally no further engagement with owners unless drastic alteration is proposed or - for example Greenside, an important Modern Movement house demolished last winter without permission - actually carried out.
One pilot site is the Holkham estate in Norfolk, which includes listed gardens and parkland, and working farms around the Grade I-listed Holkham Hall, and is owned by an English Heritage commissioner, Lord Leicester - Mr Thurley wryly predicted if the system does not work well, they will certainly hear about it.
The government has already said it wants a single register to replace the current plethora of schemes covering everything from Stonehenge to shipwrecks, Capability Brown landscapes to modest Georgian terraced houses.
The head of listing at English Heritage, Peter Beacham, said a listing system designed to protect a 200-year-old thatched cottage did not work well for 20th-century buildings, which are often the most commercially sensitive.
The 1960s Centre Point, designed by Richard Seifert and now Grade II listed, was once a radical cause celebre, when its owner, Harry Hyams, demanded huge rents, did not get them, and then left it empty for almost 20 years. The management plan would allow routine changes to the office interiors, but maintain the uniform look from the exterior, and special consent would be needed for major alterations.
Another tricky case is the University of East Anglia in Norwich, designed by Denis Lasdun, architect of the National Theatre. Although the buildings, many now Grade II*-listed, set in beautifully landscaped grounds, were much admired externally, students have always complained that they froze in winter and baked in summer. The university now argues that it needs to develop the campus to maintain its international competitiveness.
In striking contrast, Langdale neolithic landscapes in Cumbria are mainly open parkland run by the National Trust, where the chief threat is thousands of fell walkers. The site includes such extensive remains of worked flint that dozens of sites - none with any specific designation, or any defence against passing anorak pockets - are now seen as Neolithic flint axe "factories".
The pilot sites are: Arnos Vale cemetery, Bristol; Centre Point, London; Cornish road and rail bridges; Darnall works, Sheffield; Foulness island, MoD Shoeburyness, Essex; the Godolphin estate, Cornwall; Holkham estate, Norfolk; Kenilworth Castle, Abbey and Mere, Warwickshire; Langdale neolithic landscapes, Cumbria; Piccadilly line, London Underground; RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire; University of East Anglia, Norwich; water meadows, Eastleigh, Hampshire; the Weld estate, Dorset; York city walls.
More on this from a Cumbrian perspective on BBCi here
Posted by Jane
8th April 2004ce
Edited 8th April 2004ce