Sunday, 22 December 2013

Listed Buildings Cause Injuries

From ITV

In 2000, Lord Lloyd-Webber, who owned sold the Apollo to Nimax in 2005, told The Times: "The Apollo in particular is a shocking place.

"I suggested that both it and the Lyric should be knocked down and replaced by top-quality modern theatres."

The composer and musical theatre impresario complained that his plans for black-box auditorium inside the existing plasterwork had been opposed by English Heritage.

To anyone who knows anyone who's tried to improve a listed building, or bring it into use, this is a familiar story. Someone comes up with a reasonably practical solution to improving a building, one that retains most of the character, and it gets opposed by EH. So, maintenance that would normally happen, like stripping down plaster work and redoing it is less likely to happen, because the costs have been raised.

8 comments:

Dinero said...

Its particularly absurd when you consider that, using Mark Wadsworth's esitmation that almost the entire value of those sites is the land, and yet it is occupied by shocking premises when the monetary cost of building a modern top quality theatre would be comparitively inconsequensial.

Bayard said...

The main problem with trying to do anything to a listed building is usually the quality of the people you end up dealing with at the local authority or English Heritage. Far too often they take the "listed lino" approach (nothing is to change from the date of the listing, however temporary or poor quality it is). Especially at LA level, you get conservation officers who know very little about historic buildings and therefore take the "safe" course of not allowing any changes to be made.
OTOH you get owners like Lord Lloyd-Webber, who , having paid less for the building precisely because of its listing, then get all irate when they are prevented from knocking it down and replacing it with something new.

The Stigler said...

Dinero,

Yup - and would pay for itself quite quickly.

Listed buildings are very expensive to maintain because of the materials and skills. You need to bring in all sorts of very expensive specialists. Plus, they cost far more to heat than other buildings.

The Stigler said...

B,

But why shouldn't he want to knock it down? He's a theatre man and wants the best theatre for his customers.

Personally, I find the whole concept of listed buildings odd - that we want to preserve old, outdated buildings regardless of that age having any market value. If we'd had listed buildings in the 16th century, we'd still be insisting on Londoners sticking to thatch for their hovels in the 21st century.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, he bought it fair and square, wanted to replace it, was turned down and sold it again. You can't fault him for that.

The idea that he got it cheap because of the listing is probably irrelevant, if he'd replaced it with something bigger and better his Business Rates bill would have gone up accordingly, so no significant windfall gain for him.

Bayard said...

"But why shouldn't he want to knock it down? He's a theatre man and wants the best theatre for his customers."

Then he shouldn't buy one that is listed.

"Personally, I find the whole concept of listed buildings odd"

I can understand the concept: to preserve quality historic buildings for the future, but not the practice, where all sorts of crap gets listed. Personally, I blame the Modern school of architecture and the "white heat of technology" in the '50s and '60's when so much that was old was needelessly destroyed that now the pendulum has swung the other way and much that should be knocked down is needlessly retained.

The Stigler said...

Bayard,

Maybe, but the problem is that what we're really interested in is good theatres. Even if Lloyd-Webber can then sell it before, we've made better use of the land.

"Personally, I blame the Modern school of architecture and the "white heat of technology" in the '50s and '60's when so much that was old was needelessly destroyed that now the pendulum has swung the other way and much that should be knocked down is needlessly retained."

Needlessly? I don't know, but it's easy to look back in hindsight at some decisions, rather than considering that beautiful buildings were viewed as more of a luxury in 1950 than today.

However ugly Coventry city centre is, it also made shopping more efficient in the city than what they had before and that made people richer.

Bayard said...

"beautiful buildings were viewed as more of a luxury in 1950 than today"

It wasn't that beautiful buildings were viewed as a luxury, it was that old buildings were viewed as outdated and to be knocked down simply because they were old. It was not r=for reasons of efficiency either, it was simply from a desire to be modern and up-to date. The French didn't knock their historic towns and cities down, they built new buildings round the outside, with the result that the the centres of these places are still lived in and are not a sterile "business district" of shops and offices. In any case "shopping efficiency" is far more down to having enough car-parking space and pedestrianised shopping streets than 1950's and 60's urban planning, which usually involved demolishing large swathes of a town in order to get the traffic through it, when later generations more sensibly built bypasses round the outside. Coventry is not a good example as they didn't have the option of retaining what they had before, thanks to the Luftwaffe. A better example of needless destruction is a town like Yeovil, where much of one side of the main shopping street was knocked down to widen the street to ease the traffic flow and, ten years later, that street was pedestrianised.