The role of Historic England (HE) was created on the 1st April 2015 and is the government advisor on heritage and helps owners and local planning authorities with advice, grants, research, policy and the designation of sites. This purpose is distinct to the redefined English Heritage which manages heritage property and is tasked with being self sufficient within eight years.
Dr Roger Bowdler, Director of Designation at HE, clarified the three supporting ethos that Historic England subscribe to:
1) Expert – HE provide clarity and understanding to the subjective concepts of listing and aim to provide certainty as far as possible to manage items that may otherwise be considered risk factors.
2) Constructive – HE are open to discussion to manage change of our heritage in a positive way
3) Championing – HE advocates for our heritage
Interestingly the HE guiding principle – that we are ‘trustees of the present, guardians of the future’ is akin to that of the definition of sustainability.
Change as a Constant
Dr Bowdler highlighted that listing is not a preservation order. The National Heritage List of England (‘The List’) has approximately 398,000 entries; 500 were added last year, with roughly half this number simultaneously de-listed illustrating the extent of curation and change to be managed. The descriptions will remain unchanged and the challenge ahead for HE is the listing of more subjective items often in dispute. HE’s aim is to negotiate sensible and appropriate change.
New Frontier: Post-War Offices
Dr Bowdler admitted more research is required into the commercial sector. He commended the audience to the English Heritage publication of January 2015 , ‘The Late 20th Century Commercial Office’ – which can be accessed here. The publication provides a brief overview of the history of the development of the office typology and gives an insight into the considerations of listing these buildings.
‘The most distinctive examples of post-war offices combine high-quality urban design with commercial appeal…’ (p.10).
‘…a key characteristic of the late 20th-century office is an in-built flexibility…an office building can therefore be listed for its flexibility.’ (p.10).
It was emphasised at the seminar that HE support adaptive use for the future, and does this by being specific in the listing on what is ‘special’ about a specific building to provide clarity to owners.
A few examples of key listed post-war offices followed – these included:
The recognisable iconic Tower 42 was described as not listed as it ‘does not work well as an office’.
Dr Nigel Barker, National Planning and Conservation Director, London, HE, stepped up to provide a view onto their horizon.
HE is looking to provide consultation services; proposals of which are out for public comment until May 7th. Click here to offer your thoughts.
Duncan Wilson will replace Simon Thurley as Chief Executive on the 5th May,
and the impact of the upcoming general election remains an unknown.
From the Floor
After a brief pause the audience used their time wisely and posed some searching questions that broadly reflected concerns over work-in-practice.
The usual question was asked: how could the resourcing of conservation advisors within Local Authorities be improved? HE was able to assure us proactive measures are being taken. These focus on: the early engagement of HE with the LAs; improvement in the robustness of LA decisions; the more effective use of limited expertise. To this end HE is reviewing working models and engaging with the Department of Culture, Media and Sports.
A further interesting question queried whether HE could facilitate the sharing of knowledge that is created by experts in the study of listed buildings? Dr Bowdler agreed this is an area that would be of wide benefit and enrich the list. Although the listing description could not be altered HE is looking at a possible ‘mezzanine’ level which could capture work by consultants and signpost those interested to the material.
Further Post-War Office References
These more recent listing provide greater specific detail than those of building of the earlier period of The List with the descriptions are structured slightly differently.
- Lloyd’s Building, London, by Richard Rogers Partnership – Grade I – click here to read the list description
- 30 Cannon Street, London, by Whinney, Son & Austin Hall – Grade II – click here to read the list description
- Midland Bank, Liverpool, Grade II – click here to read the list description
- Gateway House, Basingstoke, by Arup Associates – Grade II – click here to read the list description
- Gun Wharf, Chatham, by Arup Associates – Grade II – click here to read the list description
- Brown Shipley & Co Ltd – Grade II – click here to read the list description.