Friday, 26 June 2009

Dresden stripped of World Heritage Site status

Dresden yesterday had its World Heritage Site status removed, at the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Seville.

It has been on the 'in danger list' for some time, while UNESCO tried to work with the authorities to build, instead of the hideous traffic bridge pictured above, a tunnel, which would not have damaged the landscape of the Elbe Valley which was a major part of the Outstanding Universal Value for which the site was inscribed.

There was a great deal of discussion, but in the end it was felt that allowing Dresden to remain a World Heritage Site, after all that had gone before, would signal to other sites that they could do pretty much as they liked and not heed UNESCO reports.

So, the unthinkable has happened, and hopefully it may encourage others who thought that UNESCO was without teeth.

It seems to me that when countries put forward sites for inscription, they also agree to protect the Outstanding Universal Value for all of humanity. That Dresden did not do so is a cause for deep regret.

More background, an opinion piece by the Friends of Dresden in the NYT:

The Committee has said that if Dresden wishes to apply again with a different part of the city and fresh thinking, but with smaller area and without the bridge, it can be considered, but that's a long way ahead, if it happens at all.

Meanwhile, the draft report on Bath was published yesterday, making recommendations regarding what the city council needs to do to further protect the site and its landscape setting. The report indicated that had the Dyson Academy plans for the Grade II listed Newark Works not been withdrawn that may have had serious consequences, but they were so that threat was removed.

More on that here:

It's clear that things already built or given planning permission will have to go ahead, UNESCO can do nothing about those, it would be futile to try, regrettable as some are, but it will be interesting to see what happens with the next phases of the deeply disliked Western Riverside scheme, and the latest Park and Ride, given the recommendations made in the report. It's a pity that many newspapers seemed to think that UNESCO visits and then simply decides to remove World Heritage Status, and that because Bath has not had that removed it is safe. That may be the case for now, but it would be well advised to look at what has happened at Dresden, and get its collective finger out.

From the Bath Preservation Trust website:


Bath Preservation Trust has welcomed the decision before UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee today (25th June 2009) particularly with its emphasis on greater protection of Bath’s landscape setting and the call to revise the plans for Western Riverside.

Although the Council has described the report as a ‘clean bill of health’ , Bath Preservation Trust would encourage the Council to demonstrate their commitment to the promises made to UNESCO by placing historic environment and landscape setting SPDs into their plans for the Local Development Plan, by introducing article 4 directions for development across Bath, and to convert the many strategies and plans into direct policies and actions.

The full UNESCO Draft Report and Decision can be found here:

From the BPT Press Release:

‘The Trust is pleased that UNESCO saw fit to send the inspection team to
Bath, to remind the Council and indeed central government of their
responsibilities. It is now incumbent upon them to provide the resources and
the planning framework necessary to manage the World Heritage Site in a
way which secures its qualities for future generations.’


We still wait the release of the full report on Edinburgh, which was visited last November by the same mission team.

Meanwhile, despite the antics of the City of Edinburgh Council's planners, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust is ploughing on with its excellent work conserving, enhancing, and educating.

All the latest news in now on the EWH website, including the June edition of Director's Notes from Adam Wilkinson, which I now shamelessly nick and reproduce here.

Director's Notes June 2009

Last week saw the opening of the EWH funded learning space at the Museum of Edinburgh at the launch of the Old Town Festival. It was a simple and delightful event – a mug of coffee in the courtyard of Huntly House, attended by local school children, councilors and those involved in both the festival and the museum, and a fair scattering of other important folk. We were regaled with tales from the chairman (an 18th century equivalent of a taxi driver), then from our Chairman, Charles McKean, Councillor Deirdre Brock and Donald Smith, Director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

The learning space itself is a lively little room in the museum, well equipped with materials to keep your children busy and involved on rainy days. The immediate challenge will be keeping it well stocked and fresh. The longer term challenge is much greater. This is the first step on the long road to giving every school child in Edinburgh the opportunity to explore the World Heritage Site and relate it to their heritage. The next step will be pulling together an online toolkit for teachers to incorporate into the curriculum for excellence. Other steps are underway to ensure that the heritage and history of the city centre remains relevant and accessible to all Edinburgh, such as our support for the excellent Scotland Street Tunnel Youth Project. We’re excited by the prospect and promise of this grass roots scheme and look forward to seeing how we can use World Heritage Status as a tool for inclusion.

As I walked towards the learning space, my eye wandered on to the museum’s displays, including James Craig’s plans for the New Town. This is but a tiny bit of the mass of wonderful documents and plans within the city’s archives that are yet to be opened out to the public – another long term aim for us must be to encourage and enable this to happen.

These aims and ambitions are emerging as we define our plan for the next five years or so. This should be completed by the end of the summer and will give us a framework in which to flourish and take opportunities as they arise. One of these which is at present occupying us is the Energy Efficiency Design Awards. EWH’s conservation funding programme is a brilliant vehicle for bringing together disparate groups of private owners, and we feel that an important part of ensuring the building stock of the WHS is in a good state and relevant for the next 50-100 years is to ensure that once repaired it is as energy efficient as possible.

We are currently applying to EEDA for a grant to apply simple and replicable measures to a B Listed tenement in private ownership (previous work has been to tenements in the single ownership of a housing cooperative), as well as one or two possibly more complex measures. Whether we win funding for this venture or not is a moot point – calculations show that we can achieve a 60% reduction in carbon emissions from a building type classed as “hard to treat”. Changing perceptions such as these is going to be a major challenge, given the level of funding that Government seems willing to throw at the problem and the relative vacuum in terms of ways of achieving this level of reduction that are benign to the architectural and historic interest of the buildings. It is only right that we should be at the forefront of working out the best way of achieving such reductions.


Thursday, 25 June 2009

Lancaster inquiry fiasco - latest from SAVE

From SAVE website

In what is rapidly turning into one of the planning fiascos of the decade, Lancaster City Council has announced its withdrawal from the Canal Corridor North Public Inquiry. This announcement comes just days into the proceedings, following damning evidence on the heritage impact of the redevelopment scheme.

This is the second bombshell to have hit the council’s plans for a 8 hectare retail-led scheme in this historic district close to Lancaster City Centre, following the unprecedented announcement in March that the applicant and developer, Centros, would not be taking part in the Inquiry - leaving the council to argue the merits of the scheme.

The application, the first to be called-in in for a Public Inquiry in the north west since 2001, involves the demolition of 30 historic buildings, 18 within conservation areas, and is being opposed at the Inquiry by SAVE, English Heritage and local group It’s our City.

William Palin, Secretary of SAVE says: ‘We are delighted that the council has acknowledged that there is no point in continuing its defence of this application. SAVE has argued from the outset that this is completely the wrong scheme for this sensitive and finely textured site. In commissioning an alternative conservation-led ‘blueprint’ for the site from Richard Griffiths, SAVE has demonstrated the benefits of an adaptable, phased approach, which makes the best of the historic fabric. Now the council has a real opportunity to change direction and promote a new scheme worthy of this unique and beautiful city.’

Technically, unless Centros withdraws the application, the inspector is still required to report to the Secretary of State. However, William Palin says ‘…this must be the end of the line for this ill-conceived scheme. Centros, having declined to turn up and defend its own application, has seen the council’s efforts to promote it fall apart.’

SAVE is being represented at the Inquiry by Andrew Deakin of 39 Essex Street, London WC2R 3AT.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Lancaster public inquiry chaos!

The Stonewell 'nose', which would have been demolished under the Centros scheme, and views of the church blocked by a bridge

Lancaster City Council today withdrew from the public inquiry into plans to spoil the city with a huge Centros retail scheme, which would have seen the demolition of many historic buildings in Conservation Areas, and adversely affected the setting of a number of listed buildings.

Developer Centros itself refused to defend its application at the inquiry, in itself a highly irregular occurrence.

Lancaster Council, which had passed the plans, was opposed by SAVE Britain's Heritage, terrific local group It's Our City, and English Heritage.

More news as it is available!

For further background and links please read:


Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Conservation Areas at Risk - well, that was a waste of time!

EH images of Noel Park, Haringay Conservation Area

English Heritage has today published its list of Conservation Areas at Risk, its supposed 'big campaign' for 2009.

As I said when EH launched it - it's too little too late.

Here's my blog on the subject from April:

And I note that, although I assiduously filled in the form from EH pointing out the problems with my local Conservation Area (see pictures from April), it's not on the list. It seems that only those identified by local authorities have been included. It also seems that only 75% of local authorities responded.

Possibly my own local authority, which has recently vanished since the county became a unitary authority, was too ashamed to reply, or couldn't be bothered, or didn't perceive any problems with almost every building being fitted with uPVC doors and windows (even listed buildings) which EH states is the no 1 problem. Of course, without any legislation in place to prevent the fitting of these, then there's nothing illegal being carried out.

Therefore many of the 'worst' areas may not have made it onto the list, and residents and local authorities will be patting themselves on the back and thinking all is fine. I also note some Conservation Areas on the list which I know and certainly don't perceive to have the number of problems as the one I nominated.

Of course, since the Shimizu judgment, many local authorities feel they have their hands tied in enforcing anything with regard to Conservation Areas. Nothing has yet been done to reverse the effects of that, the Heritage Protection Bill not being carried through to become law, although it's possible that it would not have required a change in law to clarify the judgment. However, the lack of political will was possibly the block.

I also wonder how many Conservation Officers are now feeling that a hand grenade has landed on their desks this morning? Those who conscientiously filled in the form, only to find that their patch is on the 'name and shame' list, and are as I type wondering when the summons from On High will arrive, demanding some explanation. Seems that as long as you binned the survey (and it may be that those local authorities which don't employ any conservation staff didn't even glance at it) it's all going to be OK.

What has EH now offered in the way of cash, tools, legislation and, most of all, support to the overworked and struggling conservation staff to help carry forward the conservation of Conservation Areas?

So, a waste of time then English Heritage, and no matter how many Article Four Directions are now issued, the plastic windows already installed are here to stay.

Possibly Dr Thurley should get out of the Terracotta Tower more, and not just to make TV programmes. Then he could have a little more of an eye on the ball (and not just when demonstrating 'the squint test').

He's here, in Conservation Areas: The Movie

From the BBC web news blurb:

Many conservation areas 'at risk'

More than 700 conservation areas in England are at risk of neglect, decay or damaging changes, English Heritage has warned. Its survey of local authorities found plastic windows and doors, poorly maintained roads and street clutter were the biggest threats to the areas.

English Heritage is urging more to be done to save these places of special character which make England distinct.

It wants residents, local groups and councils to work together more closely.

In total there are 9,300 conservation areas in England from historic towns and villages and 1930 suburbs to rural idylls and industrial workers' cottages. Each is designated by the local council for protection so its character and appearance can be preserved for local heritage.

But English Heritage's first ever conservation area survey found poorly considered home improvements and ill-thought out council work were putting 727 of these areas at risk.

All local authorities in England were asked about the conditions of their conservation areas, and 75% of them completed the questionnaire.

Dr Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: "Millions of us live in, work in, pass through or visit conservation areas. They are... the local heritage which gives England its distinctiveness.

"These are difficult economic times but our research shows that conservation areas do not need time-consuming or costly measures, just prioritising as places people cherish, the commitment of the whole council and good-management by residents and councils alike.

Plastic windows and door: 83% of areas affected
Poor roads and pavements: 60%
Street clutter: 45%
Loss of garden walls, fences, hedges: 43%
Unsightly satellite dishes: 38%
Traffic calming measures: 36%
Alterations to front, roofs, chimneys: 34%
Unsympathetic extensions: 31%
Advertisements: 23%
Neglected green spaces: 18%

"Well-cared for, they encourage good neighbourliness, give a boost to the local economy and will continue to be a source of national pride and joy for generations to come."

He said he wanted to see councils make more use of their powers to protect "small but important original details such as windows, doors and front gardens".

"Lose these and slowly but inevitably you lose the character and the history that made the area special in the first place," he said.

He called for council departments, including highways and environmental services, and health and education teams, to work together closely to take better care of public areas.

He also urged residents to play a greater role by commenting on planning applications, helping prepare lists of local historic buildings or doing street clutter audits...

The entire exercise has made English Heritage look out of date and out of touch, and I now wonder why I bothered.

Meanwhile, plans are afoot to demolish a major historic building in the centre of my local Conservation Area, but as the destruction is planned by the National Health Trust, it seems that's exempt.

Hospitals and schools, Dr Thurley, that's what you need to be worrying about. Interesting buildings, handsome, well-built and suitable for re-use, but not always in Conservation Areas or on Local Lists, they are vanishing into landfill.
Here's one needlessly gone, Clarence Street School, Bolton:

and this, in order to build the Richard Rose Academy in Carlisle, despite a major campaign by local people, joined by SAVE and the Victorian Society (watch the video and weep):

Another sad loss by fire:

When the fire broke out this week the developer had failed to secure planning permission for residential apartments. The fabulous mill building not only lies within the Strutts Park Conservation Area but was also positioned on the edge of the boundary of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, designated in 2001. The allocation of this area recognized the importance of Derby as the birthplace of the factory system and its pivotal role in the industrial revolution of the 19th century...

Totally gone now, the fire was so severe the building collapsed the following day.


UPDATE: Architect's Journal report:

Richard Younger-Ross MP, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Heritage: ‘Unless the Government implements firm proposals and introduces additional conservation resource to address the shortcomings in the Heritage sector, there is a serious risk that in the next few years more of our precious heritage will face devastating deterioration.’

Meanwhile in Norwich, it seems one person isn't impressed:

Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council,
said: “We absolutely agree that Mile Cross is a very important area. It has got excellent examples of early council buildings.However, English Heritage do not seem to have grasped that fact that this is a place where real people have to live and we have to draw a balance between the lives they lead, where they want their homes to be warm and their windows to be watertight and they need somewhere to park their cars near their houses. We are working, and we are happy to work with English Heritage, trying to achieve a solution. But this is expensive and will need additional money. The bottom line is that if the people there want PVC windows, then we will provide them.”

From the Bath Chron, comments section:
Just because City of Bath's conservation areas (66% of Bath is designated as conservation area) do not appear on the at-risk register doesn't mean that these areas do not suffer from the problems identified - poorly maintained roads and pavements, street clutter and the impact of advertisements. There is a need for constant vigilance by both the Council and others when inappropropriate planning applications are submitted, and it would help if there were more specific Council policies, such as a more use of Article 4 directions as suggested by English Heritage, to protect the small but crucial architectural details in the conservation areas. Meanwhile we note that Bathampton and Batheaston Conservation areas- currently threatened by the proposed Eastern Park and Ride - are now designated 'at risk'. This should firm up English Heritage's resolve in advising the Government that there is a need to call-in the P&R application for public enquiry.
Caroline Kay, Chief Executive, Bath Preservation Trust, Bath

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Tweeting on Twitter

I've joined Twitter to witter.

I can now be found here:


Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Rubble, rubble, toil and...

I had this site marked down to write about a couple of weeks' ago, but life, strife, trouble and stuff got in the way and blogging has rather taken a back seat. In the interim, it seems to have been 'discovered' by the AJ; however, for those who don't scour the pages of that journal on a daily basis, just in case it brings on a fit of the vapours, I bring it to you now to enjoy. I note that it is being added to with increasing frequency, which may or may not be A Good Thing, depending on which side of the chasm of architects v the rest of the world you are.

What, indeed, am I yabbering about, I hear you cry?!

The Rubble Club.

Gone but not forgotten

The Rubble Club is an organisation to remember buildings demolished in their architect’s lifetime. The Club is open to all who have had buildings destroyed in their lifetime. We have three key ground rules: Firstly the building's architect must be alive and not party to its destruction, secondly the building must be built with the intention of permanence (exhibitions, shops and interiors are not eligible), and thirdly it must be deliberately destroyed or radically altered, it can't simply burn down.

And here is the site in question:

What more can I say? Some are a loss, some aren't... but no doubt we all have our own list of those we wish could join those catalogued on the club site.

Sic transit gloria mundi!


pic above:
Demolition of Lion Yard, Cambridge Copyright (C) David Redhouse 2005. Licence.

Saturday, 6 June 2009


*This blog has been updated to link to the UNESCO mission reports, Bath and Edinburgh, now that they are released:

The Canongate Venture, one of the World Heritage Site listed buildings the Caltongate scheme would have had demolished

What a cheering heading that was to write.

The Scotsman today has leaked part of the still-confidential report on Edinburgh from the UNESCO mission which visited the city last November, sparked by a huge campaign by many worried about what was happening in the City. I leave The Scotsman (and mostly Brian Ferguson) to tell the story...

UNESCO insist that views be kept, and this planned building scrapped

Unesco insists Capital must scrap £300m Caltongate scheme
6 June 2009

A £300 MILLION development in Edinburgh's historic Old Town has been thrown deeper into chaos after Unesco inspectors demanded council leaders have the whole scheme returned to the drawing board.

Councillors are set to face international condemnation at a world heritage summit in Seville next month after a damning report urged wholescale changes be made to the Caltongate scheme – even though it has received final approval from the Scottish Government.

The future of the project – which includes a five-star hotel and conference centre on the Royal Mile, more than 200 homes and a cultural quarter – was put in doubt this year when developer Mountgrange went into administration.Leaked documents obtained by The Scotsman reveal that heritage inspectors are demanding a reprieve for two listed buildings threatened with demolition, the scrapping of a modern building which would have blocked views from Jeffrey Street, and a full review of how the development would impact on views from Calton Hill.

Unesco's report, which the city council received in February, said changes were needed to avoid the development impacting on the "outstanding universal value, authenticity and integrity" of the city's world heritage site...
...Referring to Caltongate, Unesco's inspectors recommended the "integration rather than demolition of two listed buildings" and the "total redesign" of a huge part of the development. Unesco's report will also recommend the creation of a "buffer zone" around the current world heritage site. The report also states: "There is a need for clear policies in relation to height controls within the world heritage property ... which should be developed on the basis of key views and vistas from within and outside the property."

Here's the report from the Scotsman:

It's been a long, long struggle, a very real David and Goliath battle, but there seems to be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

For more keep up with the blog:

and website of the campaign:

Last week another section of the report was released, at the inquiry into the 17-storey Haymarket Tower. UNESCO didn't like that either, and thought planning policies and a lack of a declared buffer zone were 'cause for concern'.
The plans were originally backed by Edinburgh City Council but were "called in" by the Scottish Government, although possibly that was because of the UNESCO visit...

Heritage body hits out over visual impact of 17-storey capital hotel
27 May 2009

WORLD heritage body Unesco has strongly criticised plans for a 17-storey Edinburgh hotel, saying it would have a "major visual impact" on surrounding buildings in the capital.
A public inquiry into the £200 million project heard that the UN body had "considerable concern about the height of the proposed hotel in the Haymarket development".

A two-week public inquiry into the project at the disused Morrison Street goods yard near Haymarket railway station which includes two hotels, offices shops and restaurants, began on Monday.Critics, including the Cockburn Association, Edinburgh World Heritage and residents' groups, say they do not object to the site being redeveloped, but insist the height of the 17-storey, five-star hotel, located at the edge of a World Heritage Site, is out of scale with buildings in the surrounding area.The plans were originally backed by Edinburgh City Council but were "called in" by the Scottish Government...

Unesco officials visited the city on a monitoring mission last November, raising fears that the city would lose its heritage status.In its report to be presented to the World Heritage Committee meeting in Seville next month and released to the inquiry yesterday, they raise strong concerns about the hotel which Tiger Developments wants to build for its client the InterContinental Hotel Group.

Unesco wrote: "The proposed 17-storey hotel would have a major visual impact on the property and dominate the St Mary's Cathedral towers from several key viewpoints."The officials also said there was a need for a "declared buffer zone" between the proposed development and the heritage site, adding that current planning mechanisms seemed unable to deter proposals such as that for a 17-storey hotel....


Hotel would 'obliterate' city's heritage status, says expert
3rd June 2009

ONE of the world's foremost conservation experts believes plans for a controversial hotel development "ignore and obliterate" the world heritage status of Scotland's capital.
Professor Herb Stovel, a long-time adviser to world heritage body Unesco, told a public inquiry in Edinburgh that the 17-storey development would dramatically change the city's Haymarket district.Prof Stovel, who was behind a major study which led to Edinburgh securing world heritage status, said it made no difference that the five-star hotel proposed by Irish developer Tiger was outside the designated site...


Swinney admits planning system has failings
4 June 2009

SCOTTISH finance secretary John Swinney yesterday admitted that having to call in major developments for public inquiries meant the planning system was partly failing. He said the government wanted to "minimise" the use of inquiries by trying to ensure disputes were resolved early.

Mr Swinney also insisted the government would respect the views of Unesco's world's heritage committee when it rules on major developments in Edinburgh next month – saying the body had a "fundamental" part to play in the planning process. He was speaking in amid news a second public inquiry had been ordered within just a few months into a major development in Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, the head of the Prince of Wales' architecture trust has called for developers to respect the character of world heritage sites such as Edinburgh when pursuing major projects. Hank Dittmar said the prince had expressed concerns about the impact of new schemes in the city.

Haymarket Tower

I understand the good people at Bath Heritage Watchdog are eagerly anticipating what UNESCO has to say about that fine city, and the Western Riverside scheme.


Monday, 1 June 2009

All We Need Is Love: SAVE Buildings at Risk!

Published today - the 2009 SAVE Britain's Heritage Buildings at Risk catalogue, so don't delay, order NOW!

"SAVE’s 2009 Buildings at Risk report is due to arrive in the office on the 1st June. It is the most agonising parade of delightful and decaying historic buildings that SAVE has so far produced.

Many of these buildings can be tackled and rescued by enterprising individuals. This latest list of over 100 buildings includes classic Queen Anne and Regency houses begging for restoration, weather boarded Essex farmhouses, old rectories, town houses built for wealthy merchants, pretty but forlorn village pubs, and a perfect William and Mary Dolls House belonging to the Ministry of Defence. There are bigger buildings too, many prominent local landmarks such as the art College at Derby, the Prison at Plymouth, several town halls, post offices, schools, chapels and hotels.

Every page is a cry for help...

To order your copy please contact the office or send us a cheque with a note describing which publication you require. The publication is priced at £15 (£13 for Friends) + £2.50 p&p"

For further information and more pictures, here's the latest Press Release:

Buildings at Risk Press Release May 2009

And to spur you on, in case you fancy rescuing a wreck, Jon Maine has updated his Merchant's House website (see last Republic post on his success in the RICS Awards) with a gallery link to Picassa web albums of pictures, and started a blog (see my blog list on the right):

SAVE has featured his wonderful work and success in the RICS Awards on its website, with a link also to the article which appeared in the 2006 BaR catalogue:

Now Jon (who is a conservation builder and project manager in case you want to rescue a wreck and feel you need help) is to go forward to the national finals, with Merchant's House up against places like St Paul's. Best of luck, Jon!

Also on that PDF link is part of the article in the same book about the rescue of Heolas Fawr in Wales, by Gervase Webb. For those wishing to know more, Gervase Webb's website is at : Heolas Fawr click to enlarge

Gervase has also published this useful guide to traditional plastering:

and there is other useful stuff here for those keen to tackle their own wreck:

If you want to buy meat carefully raised at Heolas Fawr, here's further information:

Like Jon, Gervase is happy to come along and advise, project manage, and also get his hands dirty helping others to rescue their own wrecks.

"Horgan & Webb is a member of the AECB, the sustainable building association, the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and The Building Limes Forum.

The work on our own house was featured in the BBC2 series Restored to Glory, where John Yates a former chairman of the IHBC, commended the "textbook conservation techniques" and Ian Constantinedes of St Blaise Ltd commented, "England's loss is Wales's gain".
The project has also been featured on the
Period Property website and in the 2006 SAVE Buildings at Risk register. More recently Gervase Webb was asked to speak at the annual conference of the The Building Limes Forum on the implications of new building regulations for those working on traditional buildings. He has also been featured in the property section of the Independent newspaper."


I've just had my attention drawn to this article in the Times 29th May

on the new SAVE report on Brighton's churches at risk, so why not order that in addition to the BaR catalogue? I wrote about it here:

and it's also featured in today's SALON:

Click to enlarge

Back soon with a longer blog!

Meanwhile, enjoy the great weather. I know I will, the garden beckons...


Latest: Sunday Times June 7th has an article about the Buidings at Risk catalogue: