LETTER:Listed buildings are not to be `pickled in aspic'

From Mr David Morton

Sir: As one of the half-million owners of listed buildings in this country, a historic building consultant for both the private and public sector and a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute's Conservation Panel, I did not recognise Teresa Gorman's version (Another View; "Who'd own a listed home?", 10 March) of the operation of our listed building legislation as the thing that I work with every day.

The vast majority of domestic listed building consent applications are approved. The success rate is even higher where authorities have conservation officers and their advice is sought and taken. Unfortunately many people do carry out unauthorised works to listed buildings either deliberately or accidentally. Action is normally only taken in two situations: the worst examples of breaches of the legislation and in response to complaints by members of the public. A disagreement with the views of a local authority is not a justification for a free-for-all with buildings which are part of our history.

Recent government advice makes it quite clear that the historic built environment should not be pickled in aspic. Alterations or even the demolition of listed buildings are not forbidden. There must, however, be a process against which change can be evaluated. As with any system involving subjective judgements, there are often differences of opinion. That many beautiful buildings disappeared in the Fifties without proper consideration is one of the reasons why there is public support for a system of control of the historic built environment.

Most chartered surveyors consider that despite Teresa Gorman's spine- chilling narrative, the words "listed building'' are seen as a positive selling feature and they are usually included in sales particulars. Mrs Gorman's "the bogey man will get you" version of our listed building legislation is thankfully not shared by the general public who respect the old and familiar.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID MORTON

Conservation Consultancy

Shipley, West Yorkshire

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