Letter: When new windows spoil the view

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The Independent Online
Sir: Peter Dunn's article and your leading article of 24 August raise questions that deserve a greater public debate, particularly at a time when the Department of the Environment is consulting widely on the question of controlling home improvements in our historic towns and villages.

Jack and Lucie Green perceived that their original windows were rotten, costly to maintain and uninsulated, and they believed that the new designs looked just like the old. The local planners and the DoE did not.

English Heritage believes that old windows can be renovated in a cost-effective manner and improved in benign fashion to meet most home owners' desires for improved amenity without loss of their special interest and character. We have sent travelling exhibitions around the country to prove the point and will be publishing detailed guidance shortly for all concerned.

We are also in discussions with industry. Mass-produced, standard replacement windows in plastic, wood or metal rarely match the subtleties of traditional joinery detailing that provide the essential character of our historic environment and give us all a sense of place. And stick-on metal lattice grilles over double-skin plate glass, edged in black gaskets in oversized frames, can hardly be said to match leaded panes (your photograph prevented detailed comparisons with neighbouring lights).

The key point you raise is where do we draw the line? If each generation dilutes its heritage by well-meaning, though inappropriate, 'improvements' we will end up with no genuine architectural roots.

Yours faithfully,

JOHN FIDLER

Head of Architectural Conservation

Science & Conservation Services

English Heritage

London, W1

24 August

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