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FALCONER SIDELINES HERITAGE GROUPS

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Heritage bodies are to lose the right to oppose the demolition of listed buildings, reported The Sunday Telegraph (...
Heritage bodies are to lose the right to oppose the demolition of listed buildings, reported The Sunday Telegraph (p6).

Under plans being put forward in a new green paper, local authority planning officers will no longer have to notify heritage bodies, including the Victorian Society, the Georgian Group and the Council for British Archeology, of demolitions or partial demolitions of Grade I, II and III* buildings. The green paper will say the government intends to reduce the number of statutory consultees. At a meeting with DTLR officials this month architectural historians were warned that in future only English Heritage and those groups concerned with health and safety or the environment will be consulted.

English Heritage, however, confirmed that its policy is not to become involved with Grade II listed buildings.

Planning minister Lord Falconer last week declared whole or joint ownership of six properties in the Lords' Register of Interests. The Sunday Telegraph said that in the past eight years he has made eight separate applications to demolish and rebuild parts of his Grade II listed home in Islington - all but one of which have been successful. A spokesman for the Georgian Group said Islington LBC had not consulted it on Lord Falconer's refurbishments, which may have been too minor to require their notification.

The proposals have been welcomed by developers, who say that heritage societies are preventing badly needed projects from going ahead. They are also likely to be a boon to homeowners whose plans to modernise old propoerties are caught between requirements of health and safety legislation and the aethestic demands of heritage groups.

Lord Falconer said the changes were intended to speed up the processing of planning applications that are held up partly because of the deliberations of heritage and environment bodies. However, the groups argue they are being scapegoated for delays by incompetent and bureaucratic local authorities.

'How can it be us holding things up?' asked Ian Dungavell, director of the Victorian Society. 'We have 28 days to respond to a new planning application, after which time any comments we make are ignored. Even if we wanted to cause delay, we couldn't'.

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