Thursday, 1 March 2012

Demolition of Historic Building in Conservation Area

Recently visited a site in a London Conservation Area where there is local pressure to keep one of the older buildings, which was built as a pub in the nineteenth century. But how far should you go in keeping old buildings, just for their own sake?

It is an interesting case as the building has undergone a large number of alterations over its life. It has evolved to take in light industrial uses on the site and merged with the original building. Not only has it lost its original pitched roof structure and tiles, but also its chimneys and details such as cornice and pediment. It is now merely a shadow of its former self, and very plain, but I'm sure the local interest groups and some neighbours will not see it that way. The building has had its day, and served its purpose but it is now vacant, redundant, in very poor condition and without life or real architectural merit. Why not build something positive in its place, keeping the form and footprint, to preserve the character of the conservation area? The pragmatic approach is to weigh up its significance and then balance the loss with the public benefits. I am sure that there will be very different opinion, even within my own profession, about this sort of issue and each case has to be judged on its own merits but there is a new factor to be brought into the debate and that is the local view and values that local people place on these sorts of buildings - the opinion of local amenity or special interest groups is now given much greater credence under Planning Policy Statement 5. Views seem to have polarised over the years I have worked in this profession but I find there is always a common sense balance to be struck. Watch this space to see how this progresses.

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