Leaked letter raises fear for protected sites

Concerns have been raised over the possible demolition of a listed building and the affect it could have on the industry.

A leaked government letter which could see the demolition of a top-listed building and registered landscape could spell disaster for protected landscapes. This is the fear of conservationists and landscape architects as proposed legislation changes came to light to de-list the Grade II*-listed Commonwealth Institute (CI) building. The leaking of a letter signed by culture secretary Tessa Jowell and foreign secretary Margaret Beckett made its way into the hands of the 20th Century Society, which aims to protect noted architecture and landscapes. The society and English Heritage now fear if the Bill went ahead, it would open the floodgates for other noted sites to be de-listed. 20th Century Society director Catherine Croft said: “It’s not just the building, it’s surrounded by a registered landscape and they don’t seem to have thought about that.” Land Use Consultants principal Dominic Cole, also a member of Heritage Link, said: “There already exists a statute to deal with changes of use demolishing part of a building or whatever. To remove a listing to demolish a building sets a very bad precedent as there’s a huge number of properties where people would then try to do that. “If it becomes easy to de-list a building, it starts to make the whole system very meaningless and registered landscapes will have no protection.” Garden History society president Sir Roy Strong said all efforts should be made to alter its use — not change it substantially or demolish it. English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley said: “To engage in a fundamental change to the law undermines the whole system of protection in England.”

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