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The Ragged School Blog Deptford

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Louise House listed

Forest Hill has been granted a minor victory in the battle against the trend of 'disposable heritage' - the blight which has seen historic London disappearing.
Louise house next to Forest Hill Pools has been Grade II listed.

Minor historical buildings are being systematically targeted in areas of London under-represented by conservationists and historians. Typically a building which falls through the listing system because of its insufficient architectural merit will be used by councils and developers 'working together' to create new plots, the building being written off as 'disposable heritage'. Often in a pre emptive strike the landlord will allow the building to fall into disrepair first and then tell the planning committee that it is better to pull it down and build something which will benefit the councils targets for housing, retail and public landscaping. In extreme cases (which are nevertheless common) the landowner will actively neglect the security of the buildings fabric so that it will become dangerous and 'irreparable'. Another common tactic is to draw up plans for a bland building and compare it to the greater expense of refitting the existing site, a fait accompli as a minimally specified bland building will necessarily cost less than a well restored and upgraded high quality building. The landowner/developer will implicitly threaten the council planners that they can only afford to demolish and rebuild their unsound/uneconomic building and if they dont get permission they will leave the site rotting.

When there is insufficient representation by local historians of the buildings historical merit, and pressure to put in its place a new build which is superior in facility, permission is granted for the building to be replaced, even by a bland building. Again due to the general ambivalence about architecture the outer London boroughs will accept proposals for bland buildings. There is a general trend that in order to avoid delays of controversy and debate that proposals must be bland, the blander the better. However more buildings do not equal better quality buildings.

So why is this happening all over outer London when boroughs in the centre use architects to reuse similar Victorian and industrial buildings with innovative refits which retain (at least) the shell and essential features whilst installing state of the art facilities such as energy efficiency, security, safety and accessibility ? The answer is demographic, the developers outside the centre are exploiting the fact that there are less active conservationists cataloguing and appraising the historic landscape.
This means there is an opportunity to try and rush through schemes before the conservationist community has ENOUGH time to react (by warning the public) and gather together all the evidence needed to properly appraise the cultural and historical significance of the site.

Much of inner London has been (and still is being) redeveloped whilst retaining many remaining historical features (even celebrating it), whereas in South London there has been an ever decreasing stock of 'historical remainders' which although as individual examples of building or history are small, they are disproportionately representative of the areas historical landscape. It is this fact - that they are more scarce which elevates them from being evaluated individually as 'minor'.

So how can the conservationist community work together in this particular situation to create a sufficient early warning system ? The answer is right here under your mouse pointer.


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