SURVIVAL OFTHE FITTEST:
PLACES MUST RESPOND TO SURVIVE
Planning meets preservation; urban design meets conservation. If we reconcile identity and technology, there is no reason why character and innovation should not go together, says Jack Warshaw
Historic town centres are not immune from pressures for change. Growth, decay, competition, traffic, the economy, housing, employment, demographic trends and other factors must inform the balance of preservation versus planned development. But promoting development-led ‘regeneration’ on the one hand, or resisting all change on the other, are both likely to end in tears. Instead, why not try applying Darwin’s approach to the urban scene:‘
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.’ This juncture is where conservation and urban design meet to find a common language.
Urban Design Approach
The language of urban design is aimed at place making. Government guides such as By Design, 2000, see objectives in terms of character, continuity and enclosure, quality of the public realm, ease of movement, legibility, adaptability and diversity. Character, for example, is about local distinctiveness, and involves the creative reconciliation of local practices, on the one hand, with the latest technologies, building types and needs, on the other. Where there are no significant local traditions, the challenge of creating a distinctive place will be all the greater. There is no reason why character and innovation should not go together. New and old buildings can coexist happily without disguising one as the other, if the design of the new is a response to urban design objectives.
The core areas of historic towns are invariably designated as Conservation Areas. Large towns may contain several, along with a considerable number of listed and other important buildings. The language of conservation is less about new technologies and more about understanding what makes a place special, going on to develop measures for preserving and enhancing its character. Guidance, in England, comes in the form of successive Historic England publications, such as Conservation Area Appraisals, Management of Conservation Areas, The Setting of Historic Buildings and many others.
Help and further advice
- Institute of Historic Buildings Conservation: https://www.ihbc.org.uk
- Historic England: https://historicengland.org.uk
- Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) www.architecture.com
- Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)www.rtpi.org.uk
- Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) www.spab.org.uk
- Georgian Group www.georgiangroup.org.uk
- Victorian Society www.victoriansociety.org.uk
- 20th Century Society www.c20society.org.uk
- Urban Design Group www.udg.org.uk
Jack Warshaw is a fully qualified Specialist Conservation Architect undertaking quinquennial inspections and a full range of associated services in the diocese of London, Guildford, Portsmouth, Canterbury and Winchester. A typical outline quinquennial content includes:
- Executive Summary
- Brief description
- Building History
- Maintenance responsibility
- Repair/maintenance categories
- Exterior items
- Interior items
- Fittings, fixtures, etc
- Maintenance regime
- Advice to PCC
Information on listed buildings
What does listing mean?
The list is a register of buildings and structures considered to form part of the national cultural heritage.
How far does the listing extend?
Buildings are listed in their entirety: there is no such thing as just a listed facade or interior, and no distinction between grades. All features may not be equally significant. The list description is intended primarily for identification purposes. It does not provide a comprehensive or exclusive record of all the features of importance. Any object or structure fixed to a listed building or included within the curtilage of the building which, although not fixed to the building, forms part of the land and has done so since before 1 July 1948, is included in the listing.
Altering or extending a listed building in a way that affects its character, requires “listed building consent” from your local planning authority or in some circumstances the Secretary of State. It is an offence to do so without consent, and the penalties for this can be heavy. If planning permission is also be needed, applications for both can be considered together. No fee is payable for listed building consent applications.
How do I know if I need consent?
If you are not absolutely sure, you should consult the local authority, who must decide. CAP will give an opinion free of charge on request if we are able to visit the site or if suitable details are provided.
For certain categories of listed building, consent must be authorised by Historic England. Consent does not affect any other statutory obligation, e.g. obtaining Building Regulations permission, which may apply, or the other way round; if you obtain Buildings Regulations permission, you still require listed building consent. Certain classes of ecclesiastical buildings are exempt from listed building consent but must comply with other regulatory legislation having similar intent. Being listed does not necessarily mean that a building must never change; harmful or disfiguring previous works are obvious reasons for remedial action, but there is a presumption in favour of preservation. Works such as alteration or new development require full justification.