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'PROPOSED LEGISLATION WOULD PUT HERITAGE AT RISK'

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English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley reacted angrily today to a leaked letter from the Foreign Office and...
English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley reacted angrily today to a leaked letter from the Foreign Office and DCMS which revealed a proposal to change the law to allow listed buildings to be demolished for profit.

The extraordinary plan has been devised in order to make it possible to demolish the Grade II* listed Commonwealth Institute in London. Dr Thurley has agreed to meet with culture minister David Lammy to discuss this proposal and its wider implications for heritage protection.

Mr Thurley said; 'This proposal to alter the law in order to make de-listing the Commonwealth Institute possible is not only muddled and dangerous but completely unnecessary. Historically priceless buildings occupying valuable sites everywhere would be put at risk from demolition if it could be shown that maximum profit could be achieved for any good cause. Listed buildings like London Zoo, the Royal Festival Hall, the National Theatre or the British Museum could be at risk.

'This is a proposal for a demolishers' charter. It undermines the fundamental principle that the country's best and most culturally valuable architecture is worth keeping.

'Listing does not stop a building being altered or demolished, re-used or sold for a profit. Wembley Stadium was listed but demolished within the law, and in line with our advice. There is already a constructive and democratic way of resolving cases like this. Forcing through a bill in the face of opposition would be an unacceptably rash destabilisation of the planning system.

'Due to the unique nature of the Commonwealth Institute site, it is questionable whether demolition will release the greatest profit. English Heritage has offered detailed guidance, sympathetic to the owner's concerns, on how to develop the site for the best outcome.

'The importance of this building is not being debated. The secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport does herself argue that it is still worthy of its Grade II* status. The future of this building should lie in expert consideration of how to get the best from the site through the normal planning process. To engage in a fundamental change to the law undermines the whole system of protection in England.'

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