7 July 2015

Protecting historic property from redevelopment

Recent news headlines have illustrated that developers should pay careful attention to the protection of historic buildings, or face the consequences.

The Carlton Tavern in Kilburn, North London was demolished in April this year in the expectation that the owners could then go ahead with their plans to redevelop the site for residential use. 

Having had their planning application turned down, the developers decided to press on regardless and demolish the pub, presumably in the hope that the Local Authority would turn a blind eye.  In contrast, the Council ordered that the demolished building should be completely rebuilt, brick by brick.

The Carlton Tavern was referred to Historic England to be assessed, which got me thinking about the various ways there are to protect historic buildings from demolition.

Nationally listed buildings

Clearly the best way to protect a building is to have it listed, or more accurately, added to the National Heritage List for England (NHLE).  Anyone can apply for a building, monument, site or wreck site to be added to the NHLE and, following successful listing, it is a criminal offence to carry out works without the appropriate consents.  However, in order for an application to be accepted for consideration, the asset must:

  1. be under serious threat of demolition or major alteration; or
  2. fall within an area which is a strategic priority under the National Heritage Protection Plan and which has been identified for designation follow-up; or
  3. possess evident significance and have a very strong potential for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England (which means it is highly surprising that it isn't already listed).

With such a high threshold to achieve NHLE listing, it is worth looking at other ways to protect your castle.

Locally listed buildings

Many local authorities hold local lists.  For instance Colchester, which proudly bears the tag line "Britain's Oldest Recorded Town", has an enthusiastic local council which reviews its local list annually.  Whilst this doesn’t afford the level of protection provided by NHLE listing, it is a factor which is taken into account when determining planning applications in accordance with the relevant local authority's planning policy.  Local lists can include buildings, architectural features and historic assets which, while not of national significance, are considered to be locally significant for their architectural or historic value.

Conservation areas

It is always worth checking whether the property at risk falls within a conservation area.  Conservation area designation is a recognition of the special architectural or historic interest of the area as a whole.  Conservation areas are not designed to stop future development, but to protect the existing special character of the area.  Demolition of a property in a conservation area without the appropriate consents is a criminal offence.

Assets of Community Value (ACV)

Legislation enacted in 2011 provided a mechanism for parishes and community organisations to protect local amenities which further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community.  If an asset is designated as an ACV then it will be included on a list held by the local authority.  The owner must serve notice on the local authority of any intention to sell, following which, if a community group expresses an interest to buy the ACV, the owner may not sell to anyone other than the community group for a period of six months.  The ACV designation lasts for five years.  By way of example, The Clifton and The Star, both pubs in St John’s Wood, London have been listed as ACVs by Westminster Council.  

Scheduled monuments

Scheduling is the selection of nationally important archaeological sites, by Historic England, which would particularly benefit from close management.  If a monument is scheduled, there is a presumption that it will be handed on to future generations in the same state.  Any alteration to or demolition of them is unlikely to be permitted. 

Mi casa es su casa…

They say an Englishman's home is his castle.  If your home, or indeed your local hostelry, is under threat, then the above are options available to ensure its protection for future generations. 

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