David Prosser: Rebuilding Broadgate isn't cultural vandalism

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Outlook Given that the Government rarely ignores the recommendation of English Heritage that it should give a building listed status, the decision of Jeremy Hunt to do so for the Broadgate buildings in the heart of the City is worthy of scrutiny. And anyone who looks at the facts will conclude that the Cultural Secretary has put financial considerations first in this case.

Well, thank goodness for that. British Land, the owner of the Broadgate site, wants to begin a major reconstruction, a scheme that will generate sizeable numbers of jobs and boost the local economy. Once completed, the offices will become the European headquarters of the Swiss investment bank UBS – a powerful statement at a time when there is so much concern about large financial institutions deserting the UK.

In its submission to Mr Hunt, English Heritage accepted that the building, completed in 1985, falls under the "30-year rule" which says that more modern constructions should only be given listed status if they can be shown to be "of outstanding quality and under threat". At Broadgate, that case has not been made.

For one thing, the buildings themselves, while speaking to the spirit of the Eighties, are no more or less interesting than many other office blocks in London and elsewhere. For another, what English Heritage really values is the way the whole complex works together – "Rare for commercial developments, people enjoy Broadgate Square: in this sense, it is a triumph of urbanism," it explains – yet there development proposed by British Land includes the same sort of public space.

There are no end of peoplebetter qualified than me to judge the architectural merits of Broadgate as it stands and as it will. But the economic advantages of allowing redevelopment to proceed, subject to assurances about the quality of the new buildings, are too compelling to ignore.