House of COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:
HOUSING, PLANNING, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THE REGIONS COMMITTEE
Monday 2 February 2004
MR S THURLEY and MS D LAMB
and MR J WARSHAW
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
Taken before the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister:
Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Committee
(Urban Affairs Sub-Committee) on Monday 2 February 2004
Chris Mole, in the Chair
Sir Paul Beresford
Mr Clive Betts
Mr Bill O'Brien
Memoranda submitted by English Heritage
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Mr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive and Ms Deborah Lamb, Director of Policy and Communications, English Heritage, examined.
Q98 Chairman: Welcome to the second evidence session in the inquiry into the role of historic buildings in urban regeneration. May I welcome the first two witnesses and ask you to give your names for the record, please?
Ms Lamb: My name is Deborah Lamb. I am Director of Policy and Communications at English Heritage.
Mr Thurley: My name is Simon Thurley. I am the Chief Executive of English Heritage.
Q99 Chairman: We have seen your written submission. We usually give witnesses the opportunity to make a further brief oral statement if they wish, otherwise we can go straight to questions.
Mr Thurley: We should just like to say that Sir Neil Cossons, the Chairman of English Heritage would have been here today. Unfortunately he was taken to hospital yesterday. It is not life-threatening, but he is extremely sorry not to be with you. We are very happy to be here in his stead and extremely happy to be invited to give evidence.
Chairman: I am sure the Committee wishes him a speedy recovery.
Q100 Christine Russell: May I ask a really easy question to start off with? Could you tell us what you believe historic buildings uniquely have to offer regeneration?
Mr Thurley: We think a lot of things, but probably three things in particular. There is a social, economic and an environmental benefit. On the first one, the social benefit, we believe very strongly that historic buildings - in fact the term historic environment is the one we prefer to use because it includes historic landscapes and parks and the like - contribute a sense of place, a sense of belonging, a sense of history and as such they have the opportunity to make somewhere into a place which people value and where they feel at home and have a sense of ownership and belonging. Secondly, we believe that there is a significant economic benefit. We believe that the historic environment adds economic value. I am sure we could give you a lot of examples of regeneration projects where the historic environment has provided a sound economic base, somewhere like Grainger Town in Newcastle, where without the historic environment the new economic activity would not have anything like the chance of developing it has had. Thirdly, we think there is a considerable environmental benefit through the notion of sustainable development. There is a huge amount of waste generated by the construction and demolition of buildings; something like 24 per cent of all demolition and construction waste is generated by demolition and construction. It is simply better in sustainability terms to use and recycle old buildings than to demolish them and to build new ones.
Q101 Christine Russell: What brought about this change of thinking in English Heritage? Up to a few years ago your main concern was to save old buildings for cultural, symbolic reasons. You are now using the economic arguments as well for saving buildings. What brought about the change?
Mr Thurley: There has been a general move in all sorts of environmental agencies away from preservation to management. We are now more interested in the management of the historic environment. Certainly that does include preservation on some occasions, but the key to it is actually finding a way of managing it so you can unlock the benefits it gives to people, particularly in terms of quality of life.
Q102 Sir Paul Beresford: Do you ever consider that there are occasions when listing buildings is a serious impediment to development?
Mr Thurley: The short answer is no, it should not be. We have a system of listing buildings in this country which really dates from immediately after the war. The DCMS is currently undertaking a review of the heritage protection legislation which will hopefully result in a considerable modernisation of the system which will remove some of what we regard as procedural problems which the current system has. If it worked properly, the listing of buildings should do quite the reverse: it should actually highlight the significance and the value of the assets which we have, which are irreplaceable assets and give people a sense of history.
Q103 Sir Paul Beresford: Can I give you a tiny example? Several years ago the then government was looking at the extension of the high-speed rail link from King's Cross out to the tunnel and there was a spot of difficulty with some English Heritage individual, admittedly some level down from your position. There were some gasometers, at least there was the framework of some gasometers. They were in the way and the little man at English Heritage decided, if I remember correctly, that the pump was special and that the latticework was special. These two hideous pieces of latticework had no gasometers within them, the Science Museum said that the pump was not special and if a drawing could be sent that would be fine and we could scrap the pump as far as they were concerned. However, English Heritage persisted and that cost that project an extra £1 million just to take them down, to have them stored so that someone, somewhere, heaven knows where, could put these blessed bits of latticework up. If anyone put them up anywhere near my sight and that of most of this country, we would have shot them down. Would you not have thought that was an obstacle?
Mr Thurley: I cannot comment on that particular incident; I was not working for English Heritage at that time. What I would talk about is the general principle, which is that one of our key remits is to make sure that the things which are valued by people today as part of their history, their past, are still able to be valued by people in the future. In very, very, very many, in fact in the vast majority of cases of regeneration, those buildings, those structures actually make a positive contribution to the end result.
Q104 Sir Paul Beresford: Just suppose an application were put through or suggestion were put through that in fact it was an obstacle to regeneration, would you ever consider recommending delisting?
Mr Thurley: Yes, it has been recommended on a number of occasions. There is a very important point to make here and that is that there are two parts to the process of listing and development control. There is the action of listing, which identifies significance and puts it on a list. That does not mean that the building needs to be kept forever, it does not mean that it needs to be kept forever in the condition it is now. What it does mean is that when development is considered, it is one of the factors which are taken into consideration. That is when PPG15 and PPG16 in the case of archaeological sites come in. What those guidance notes do is bring a much wider spectrum of consideration to that particular designated asset and that wider spectrum includes economics, it includes regeneration, it may include the political and social condition around. What that allows us to do is to look at something which by general agreement is of value to society and decide whether that thing ought to be altered, taken away, destroyed or whether it ought to be nurtured and converted to some alternative use.
Q105 Sir Paul Beresford: Does English Heritage ever review its listings?
Mr Thurley: You can apply to have a building de-listed.
Q106 Sir Paul Beresford: No, I did not ask that. English Heritage seems to be listing constantly. One wonders whether it reaches the stage where you have a host of examples of 1950s and 1960s ironwork which could have one or two examples and because of the impediments some of the others may produce to urban regeneration they could be de-listed.
Mr Thurley: There are about 450,000 listed buildings in this country and so far as I am aware at the moment there has been no proposal to review the entire list. In a way though, that is a red herring. What is much more important is the issue of management. As I said earlier, we have moved away from looking solely at preservation. What we are looking at is management. The important issue is how you manage that asset. I think you will find that if you look at our activities and if you look at the activities of the best local authorities, we are all moving away from saying this is something which must never be touched, to asking how the thing can be used for the long term for the good of the people who live around here.
Sir Paul Beresford: Do write and tell me how we could have used the gasometer framework?
Q107 Mr O'Brien: As you prefer preservation more than the question of helping to sustain communities, why did it take so long for English Heritage to move to encouraging sustainability in communities?
Mr Thurley: I do not think we feel we have taken so long. We have been involved in what was not then called regeneration for many, many years. We have been encouraging derelict, rundown areas to regenerate. We have been giving small grants to high streets and to communities.
Q108 Mr O'Brien: That was to preserve properties.
Mr Thurley: Yes, but the act of preservation has increased the sense of worth and the sense of value that people have in a place and that in turn has triggered regeneration.
Q109 Mr O'Brien: When did English Heritage get into regeneration?
Mr Thurley: We would say that we have always been involved in what is now called regeneration.
Q110 Mr O'Brien: When did you first publish your historic environment report?
Mr Thurley: That was first published two years ago.
Q111 Mr O'Brien: Why did it take so long? You were saying that you have been involved in this for a long while but you only made a report two years ago. In the 1960s local authorities and local communities accepted that heritage can encourage and sustain community renewal. So we were involved with that 40 years ago. You published your report two years ago. Where have you been?
Mr Thurley: I think you are referring to The State of England's Historic Environment report, which is a compendium of statistics. I know, because I was involved in making the decision to publish it, that what we realised was that what we needed to do was make the case much more clearly, particularly to the ODPM and put some facts and figures out to show how £10,000 of heritage regeneration funding unlocked £46,000 of investment in that area. We live in a world where those sorts of statistics are vitally important if your case is to be proved. We felt we actually ought to look back over the many, many years we had been involved in what is now called regeneration and make the case and publish the statistics, which is what we did.
Q112 Mr O'Brien: How do you engage communities directly? How do you value people's views on this?
Ms Lamb: The very fact of actually dealing with historic buildings, buildings which already exist, means that there is a community there, who live there, who work there. Focusing on regeneration based on historic buildings means that there is a community of people we can engage in the process of development. Working with historic buildings gives you a chance to engage the local people much more positively in what is happening to that area than would otherwise be the case if it were all to be knocked down and something else built in its place.
Q113 Mr O'Brien: How is value added to your scheme?
Ms Lamb: Value added from ...?
Q114 Mr O'Brien: Engaging communities.
Ms Lamb: Because all the research we have done shows that people value historic buildings. They are what give a place a real sense of identity, distinctiveness, it is what makes people feel that their place is special, different, and it can engage that level of confidence and commitment to the future.
Q115 Mr O'Brien: I accept that communities do value that. How does English Heritage get involved in valuing communities and their proposals?
Ms Lamb: We get involved in a number of different ways and there are several specific projects which we have done which looked very directly and engaged the community in particular aspects. There is a project we have done in Liverpool called Moore Box [?] which is very much about working with local people and finding out exactly what it is they value in the place around them, what it means to them. We are currently looking at doing some work in Bradford in terms of developing a heritage trail with the new deal for communities partnership there. That is precisely the sort of thing which helps people connect with their local environment and then build on that to develop regeneration proposals. More generally, the point would be that what we would look to do would be to help the people responsible for regeneration schemes within local authorities and help them develop their scheme, engaging with local communities as well. It is not all for English Heritage, but we have a role in helping other people to do that as well.
Q116 Mr O'Brien: Is that community led? Is what you have just talked about in Liverpool and Bradford community led?
Ms Lamb: It involves the community.
Q117 Mr O'Brien: Is it community led?
Mr Thurley: An example I would give of heavily community-led regeneration is Liverpool where the whole of the regeneration of the historic part of Liverpool was started by the Liverpool Echo's Stop the Rot campaign, which was entirely generated by the people of Liverpool. We have very much come in on the back of that to provide the expertise the council needs to deal with that.
Q118 Mr O'Brien: So you did not encourage it, you came on the back of it? How do you encourage community-led regeneration?
Mr Thurley: We encourage it by helping local authorities who are the frontline developers of all these types of project to take the historic environment seriously and to take the historic environment out to the people with whom they are engaging.
Q119 Chairman: You have cited a MORI survey which looked at attitudes and I am sure most people, like motherhood and apple pie, think keeping historic buildings is a good idea. What have you done to assess the costs they are prepared to sustain in preserving or conserving or managing a particular building?
Mr Thurley: We have not yet done any such research. You can always use an opinion poll in almost any way you want. In a way, it is stating the obvious that people care about the historic buildings around them. It is very difficult to attach a value to them. What is clear is that the vast majority of requests which come to us, for instance for listing, come from private individuals. There is a very, very strongly held feeling out there that this is important to them, but we have not yet put a financial value onto it.
Q120 Andrew Bennett: The Victorian Baths in Manchester are obviously very popular in terms of people voting for them to be preserved. How many of those people who voted for them to be preserved would want to use them? If you are a kid close to those baths, would you not prefer new baths with a water chute and various other fun items rather than the nostalgia of the Victorian Baths?
Mr Thurley: That is certainly a problem and as far as I am aware the proposal with the Manchester baths is only to restore one of the swimming pools not both of them because everyone thinks there is no point in having two pools. The other space will be used for something else. There definitely is evidence, particularly for that building, that people do want to use that swimming pool; there is no doubt about it.
Q121 Chairman: So you do take into account the existence of other similar examples when deciding to list.
Mr Thurley: Certainly. There are two ways recently that buildings have been listed and one of them is through the thematic surveys we have done, by looking at university buildings, schools, factories or whatever it is. The other way is through requests from the public to have something listed. What we would probably do at English Heritage is to try to encourage you to move away from thinking about listing too heavily. We do not regard listing as the crucial element in heritage regeneration. It is important, it can be important, it can be used as being important, but the absolutely fundamental issue is what happens afterwards, once you have identified what is important in an area. It might not just be historic listed buildings; it might actually be buildings which the local community find very important. It might be a pub at the end of the road, it might be the Town Hall, it might be a library, things which are not listed but which are the historic buildings which start giving character to a place.
Q122 Chairman: Are you never worried that listings are used inappropriately to prevent change of use?
Mr Thurley: We are continually worried about that and that is one of the reasons why we welcome both the revision of PPG15 and PPG16 and also the heritage protection review by the DCMS. It is an old-fashioned system and we do believe that it could be used in a much more positive way than it has been in the past.
Q123 Sir Paul Beresford: Do you think the parameters under which you consider listing are too tight?
Mr Thurley: They are not articulated clearly enough. I know that there is nowhere you can go to and find the parameters written down and I think that is an extraordinary state of affairs and there should be an agreed set of parameters which are agreed with the Secretary of State and those are the ones used by everybody.
Q124 Sir Paul Beresford: Are you suggesting parameters to the Secretary of State?
Mr Thurley: That has not happened yet, but I am sure as part of the designation review that will be one of the things which happens.
Q125 Sir Paul Beresford: Could you send some suggestions to us?
Mr Thurley: It is probably most appropriate for us to work through the channels which have already been set up, the DCMS.
Q126 Mr Betts: You said a couple of minutes ago that buildings did not have to be listed to be important as part of heritage regeneration, but in fact when you come to deal out grants as an organisation you generally tend to concentrate on Grade I and Grade II* buildings; it is quite rare for anything else to get a grant. There is probably an impression that it goes to the grand buildings in the country and not necessarily to an industrial building or a parade of shops which might be quite important in themselves in helping regeneration of a wider area.
Ms Lamb: We have a number of different grant schemes and all of them are constrained by the resources available. In terms of the grants which are available for particular individual buildings, those are limited; that is just a way of rationing the resource. In terms of the highest designations and also buildings at risk, those are the things most in need of the money and the resource and in fact for many regeneration schemes it has been our putting grant money into certain buildings at risk which has been part of the overall scheme, stabilising them, which has helped them to provide the basis for further regeneration. We do have other grant schemes as well, in particular the Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme (HERS), which is precisely the sort of scheme which focuses on small high streets, focuses on areas of commercial and mixed use. Frequently in areas of deprivation those schemes are targeted on those sorts of areas and they can help to lift that very small scale regeneration which is also the kind of area which is quite frequently missed by some of the bigger regenerations.
Q127 Mr Betts: Just picking up on the Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme, would you confirm that actually a very small percentage of your budget goes on that in total? Perhaps we could hear what it is. Secondly, have you not actually stopped giving grants under this scheme?
Ms Lamb: The Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme is about £9 million a year in grants. We are currently reviewing all our grant programmes and seeing where priorities should lie for the future.
Q128 Mr Betts: So you are not giving grants under that programme at this stage.
Ms Lamb: Yes, we are at the moment.
Q129 Mr Betts: You are giving grants.
Ms Lamb: We are at the moment, but we are reviewing it for the future.
Mr Thurley: We work extremely closely with the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Heritage Lottery Fund have a wider spectrum of things they can grant aid than we. We are actually restricted by statute to grant aiding listed buildings I and II*. If you look, for instance, at our church scheme which we operate jointly with the HLF, it enables us to grant aid places of worship regardless of their listing and is much more targeted on the social benefits we can get out of that. We work very closely with HLF on that.
Q130 Mr Betts: Is there not almost a case for amalgamating the two grant regimes so there is only one grant to apply for? At present there are two lots of forms to fill in and two organisations and by all accounts some organisations do not even bother to try to apply for them because what they get out of them at the end is not worth the effort they have put into it.
Mr Thurley: We do now have a joint scheme for churches, which is a great step forward. We are currently discussing with the HLF what other scheme we can amalgamate. You are absolutely right, what is absolutely crucial here is that the end user has something very clear, very simple and they can find out where they can get the money and what the criteria are. The greater the rationalisation we can do, the better.
Q131 Christine Russell: I know you want to move away from the listing issues, but can I move you back to them. We have been given examples and told about what happens when a major development scheme is scuppered at the eleventh hour by English Heritage coming along and listing a building. Could you just talk us through the existing system of what you do when you decide to spot list a building?
Mr Thurley: The first point to make is that over 90 per cent of the things which come to us are passed. So we are talking about a ten per cent area, which are the ones where there is some sort of debate. The debate comes in one of two areas. It either comes when the planning application comes to us, or it actually comes when there is a question about spot listing. The current legislation means that anybody, any member of the public, can write in at any moment and ask for a building to be listed. We, legally, are obliged to go and exam it, to apply the criteria which we talked about a moment ago to that and recommend to the Secretary of State ---
Q132 Christine Russell: So anyone. You do not go to the local authority and check their views.
Mr Thurley: Anyone.
Q133 Christine Russell: If you get a call from anyone you immediately set this investigation into action.
Mr Thurley: The request goes to the Secretary of State, because we do not list. The listing is done by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State gets a request. We are her official advisers. She turns to us and what it is our job to do is take the criteria, go and look at the building and then report back to the Secretary of State whether the building meets the criteria or not. On the basis of that the Secretary of State will decide ---
Q134 Christine Russell: May I just ask you what you do when the local planning authority has given a planning consent?
Mr Thurley: I will come onto that in one moment. I am talking about the system at the moment. The Secretary of State will then decide whether to list or not. She will then say yes or not and if it is yes, the building is listed and that action, spot listing, can happen at any point in the development process. Both the DCMS and we recognise that is a very, very unsatisfactory situation, but that is how the law stands at the moment. We do not believe that is the right way forward. The DCMS do not believe that is the right way forward and I know in fact that officials in the ODPM do not think it is the right way forward. The proposals for the reform of the system will introduce some mechanism which prevents spot listing happening whilst the planning permission is actually being considered by a local authority. The thing you are worried about, if we can get the change in the law, will not happen any longer. We believe that is really important. It gives us an incredible amount of grief, because the criticism we get is very often caused by a member of the public asking for spot listing and we, having said yes, it meets the criteria, the Secretary of State saying she cannot do anything about it because it meets her criteria and it is listed, then it does cause a problem.
Q135 Christine Russell: And you have said that to DCMS. So in your submission to the consultation, you have said you believe there should be no spot listing. At what stage does that happen? Does it happen at the point when the developer first goes into the planning department and says he is interested in developing X, Y or Z on this land, or does it not happen until a formal planning application is submitted?
Mr Thurley: What I can talk about is the principle, because I do not have at my fingertips the precise details. The principle needs to be that whilst something is in play as an active planning application, you need to have a moratorium on suddenly whacking listing into the middle of it. This is all part of our belief that we should not actually be waiting until a planning application arrives on our desk to be discussing these things. What is really important is to get discussion up front, pre-application discussion. The reason that 90 per cent of all applications coming to us are passed straight through, very quickly, is because we have been successful in driving a large number of applications right up front. Before they come in as an application they have been discussed, we have looked at them, everybody has agreed and it is just ticked through. If we can get the other ten per cent, we shall be very, very happy.
Q136 Christine Russell: So we already have nearly half a million listed buildings in the country. What scope do you think there still is for more buildings being listed?
Mr Thurley: A very small number of buildings a year are added to the list and a number of them are taken off the list every year as well. If you look at the growth in listed buildings over the last 20 years or so, they have not actually kept pace with the number of buildings being built in the country, so they are not actually increasing as a percentage of the buildings there are in the country. The principal effort has been diverted to post-war listing and about 300 post-war buildings have been listed now and that is where the main effort is.
Q137 Christine Russell: Give us one or two examples, off the top of your head, where you have listed buildings recently because they are part of a potential regeneration scheme?
Mr Thurley: I am not sure you have the right two people here to answer that question.
Q138 Chairman: Could you send us a note?
Mr Thurley: With ease we could give you a thorough briefing on that. I am sorry, we just do not have that here.
Q139 Christine Russell: I am told Parkhill flats in Sheffield are one example.
Mr Thurley: That is an extremely good example of the way that listing, far from hindering regeneration, has been a positive spur to it.
Q140 Andrew Bennett: What I understand now in principle is that if you are worried that someone might come up with a planning application for re-development in your area, you have to get in your objection before the planning permission is sought. Is that not a bit unfair on people, because there may be quite a few historic buildings in their neighbourhood and they think they are perfectly all right? Why now tell people they have to get in an application to protect them just in case someone comes up with a planning application, because as soon as they come up with a planning application it will be too late, will it not?
Mr Thurley: What we want to do is to encourage local authorities to have a look at their building stock and we also, as the responsible national agency, should be doing that. Quite frankly, our regional offices have a pretty good idea where major regeneration schemes are happening, where major schemes are happening and we should be in there way, way up stream, looking at those buildings, working with the local authority to make sure these issues are addressed to begin with.
Q141 Andrew Bennett: Does that mean you are going to spot list before these schemes, as soon as you get a hint of them? The developer is going to have to be even more secretive, is he not to avoid you knowing about it?
Mr Thurley: Let me give you an example of a very, very good project. We are working in South Shoreditch at the moment on the City fringe. It is a joint project between us, Hackney, the local authority and the GLA. All of us know that is an area which is ripe for regeneration, ripe for re-development; we also all know that it is a very rich area culturally. It is the area with all the art galleries, all the clubs, pubs, bars, a very, very rich cultural area. What the three bodies are doing is a comprehensive survey to look at the historic environment in those areas and work out what we think are the valuable things, what we think will be the valuable ingredients in the regeneration of South Shoreditch over the next five, ten, 15 years. What that study will do, is give everybody certainty. That is what the developers want. They want certainty; they want to know what the parameters are. We would hold that up as a model of the local authorities, the national agency and the regional body working together to try to identify how the historic environment can be made to work best.
Q142 Mr O'Brien: Does English Heritage have the skills and expertise to deal with complicated planning issues such as the ones you have just been outlining?
Mr Thurley: Yes, we do.
Q143 Mr O'Brien: What percentage of your staff has had experience of the private sector?
Ms Lamb: We have a director, so he is one of our senior managers, who is director for development economics and he is an experienced developer and worked in the development sector before he came to work for us. We have regional estate surveyors and the role that our development director plays is very much to be a source of advice for staff across the whole organisation. So when they have particular issues to do with the economics of development, they will come to him and he will advise them on it.
Q144 Mr O'Brien: That is on the environment side of development. Do you have secondments to the private sector so that your staff have exchange of views and experience?
Ms Lamb: I must admit that I am not experienced enough to know whether we have in the past. We would have to come back to you on that. Certainly it would be something we should like to see more of.
Mr Thurley: We certainly second staff to the regional development agencies and local authorities.
Q145 Mr O'Brien: How do you go about developing further the experience of your staff in the private sector as well as the public sector so that there is no misunderstanding and people are aware of what is happening with a regeneration development?
Ms Lamb: We do have staff seconded into some of the major regeneration agencies and regeneration companies; the Leicester Urban Regeneration Company is a good example of that. There is that interchange. On the other side, our director of development economics actually regularly talks to groups of developers, all sorts of developers to try to get across the point of the importance of the historic environment and potential that it has.
Q146 Mr O'Brien: What about your relationships with regional development agencies?
Mr Thurley: It is very strong. Our Chairman has recently been round and if he were here he would tell you that he has spoken to every single chairman of every RDA in the country in the last six months to ensure that we are working absolutely in tandem on regeneration issues.
Q147 Mr O'Brien: What about the assemblies? Do you have any contact with the assemblies?
Mr Thurley: Yes, we have a number of contacts with assemblies.
Ms Lamb: In each of the regions we have a regional historic environment forum which brings together a range of people, including RDAs, including some of the development agencies and local government to work together to realise the potential of the historic environment.
Q148 Andrew Bennett: If you get two experts together, there is a very good chance they will disagree. Is that right?
Mr Thurley: Yes, it is right, but that is one of the reasons why a national body like us is important. What we try to do is to set standards nationally. We try to make sure that there is a level of consistent decision-making on matters relating to the historic environment, not only amongst our own staff, but actually in local authorities. We regard that as one of the crucial roles because sitting nationally as we do we see how Land Securities is developing its projects in four, five or six cities. We are able, through cross-fertilising between those, to try to ensure that the same standards are set and, perhaps even more importantly, lessons are learned from different developments and passed across.
Q149 Andrew Bennett: Do you use the same experts as Heritage Lottery Fund?
Mr Thurley: Heritage Lottery Fund uses us.
Q150 Andrew Bennett: Exclusively?
Mr Thurley: Not exclusively, but very largely for most.
Q151 Andrew Bennett: So you do not think there is ever any disagreement between yourselves and Heritage Lottery Fund?
Mr Thurley: We are responsible for advising them on the historic buildings aspects of Heritage Lottery Fund applications. Whether the trustees will then agree with what we say is a different matter, because it is the prerogative of the trustees to decide to fund something or not.
Q152 Andrew Bennett: You have this expertise, so why do we need the CABE Urban Panel?
Mr Thurley: The CABE Urban Panel started off as the English Heritage Urban Panel and is an extremely good example of two national agencies working together to provide some joined-up advice to local authorities. There is always a danger when you have a whole series of national bodies giving advice to local authorities that they get advice fatigue. The Urban Panel is an absolute model of the way that two organisations got together to try to give rounded historic buildings advice to local authorities.
Q153 Andrew Bennett: When you look at giving this expert advice, is it important that you make it look right or that it is right? I am particularly conscious that on a lot of your buildings some of your experts are very keen to have oil based paints used because that is the sort of paint which was used historically rather than perhaps more environmentally friendly water based paints, which look just as good.
Mr Thurley: I could bore you for many, many hours on the benefits of using lead based paints and how much longer they last, etcetera. The point is that there is a number of factors to be considered when one is dealing with these types of issues. Design is one of them, the original fabric is another. It is a difficult task to balance them all, but that is what we and local authorities have to do every day, day in, day out.
Q154 Chairman: Let us try mortars then. I heard of a seventeenth century building which was moved and put back together again where, allegedly, English Heritage insisted that a 1930s mortar was used rather than a modern mortar because that was about as near as you could get to the seventeenth century.
Mr Thurley: Clearly I cannot comment on that.
Q155 Chairman: Can you believe that was likely to have happened or is it apocryphal?
Mr Thurley: I very much hope that did not happen. There is a very important point to make though amongst all this and that is that the vast amount of advice which is given to historic building owners is given by local authorities. We deal with a tiny, tiny number of these sorts of issues and if you talk to any developer, they would infinitely prefer to deal with English Heritage than a local authority. The reason for that is that generally speaking our staff are more experienced and they have better skills and they are better trained than staff in local authorities. What we believe is that the biggest thing that has to happen to the conservation movement is that we have to make sure that the skills are there in local authorities. I am sure all of you could regale me with lots and lots of these sorts of horror stories which you keep telling me and I could regale you with even worse ones if I dug deep enough into my memory. Some of them are true, some of them are apocryphal, but the grain of truth that lies behind it is that very often you are dealing with a local conservation officer who has insufficient skills, who is poorly paid, is poorly trained, who is not in the right position in the planning department, in the local authority, to give really good, sound, imaginative advice. That is why one of the principal efforts we have at the moment is to work with local authorities to make sure those skills exist and the sooner we can get those skills the sooner we can stop these extraordinary stories which you are bringing up.
Q156 Mr Betts: You are talking about joined-up advice to government, but what about the issue of joining up government. You report through to DCMS, but more of the planning and regeneration issues in government are through ODPM and local councils have their responsibilities to that department. DEFRA deals with regeneration in rural areas. You heard earlier from Sir Paul about transport schemes which often get bound up with some of the heritage issues. Is it not all a bit complicated?
Ms Lamb: It is indeed complicated, but what all of that shows is that in some ways the historic environment is a classic cross-cutting issue which impacts on a wide range of policy issues right across government. It is up to government. They could draw the boundaries in different places, but we would still be in a position of dealing with more than one department and probably several. What is very useful from our point of view is that for the first time we actually have a funding agreement, which is our agreement with government for what we will deliver for the grant we are given, which actually has the ODPM and DEFRA as joint signatories to that as well as the DCMS. There is a formal recognition that we do operate across government departments.
Q157 Mr Betts: Are there any improvements which can be made so that your advice is better received and more effectively received in government?
Ms Lamb: Yes. What is very refreshing is that now that funding agreement has been set up, that has led to a regular mechanism which we have to deal with all those government departments. One of the best aspects of that is that we deal with all those government departments together, so it is not just a question of us having to deal with them all separately, but we actually get them in the same room together and talking together. In that sense this has been a mechanism for joining up different bits of government as well.
Q158 Mr Betts: Could I come back to the crucial role of planning authorities in this? Are you having any effect on improving the advice they are giving? Can that be demonstrated, or are there any further things which you can do or which can be done to make sure it happens?
Ms Lamb: Yes. In a few months time we are planning to launch and to run for the next 18 months a major programme to raise the level of skills and awareness in local authorities. That is both to raise the level of awareness of historic environment issues amongst non-conservation professionals, the chief executive and people in highways departments and regeneration departments. Those are the people who are taking decisions which are impacting on the historic environment; it is not just the conservation officers. That is one side of it. The other side of it is to broaden the skills base of the conservation officers and issues we have been discussing to do with development economics and to do with community involvement. It is about broadening the range of skills for those people and also raising the awareness of the potential of the historic environment across a wider range of local authority staff.
Q159 Sir Paul Beresford: You mentioned earlier that a certain number of buildings are listed every year and a certain number are de-listed. Do you ever instigate the delisting?
Mr Thurley: We do, by the very fact that it is up to us to advise the Secretary of State to de-list.
Q160 Sir Paul Beresford: If a local authority and a developer come to you looking for help and they say it is just hopeless and this concrete 1950s mushroom in the middle of Coventry building site should be bulldozed, are you ever prepared to consider that is for real and actually advise the minister?
Mr Thurley: I cannot emphasise enough that listing a building is not pickling it in aspic. Listing a building does not mean that you cannot knock it down, listing a building does not mean that you cannot change it. As I said before, the crucial element here is what management regime you put to a listed building, what you do with it once it has been listed.
Q161 Sir Paul Beresford: What if the decision is that it should be bulldozed?
Mr Thurley: That is one of the options. There is currently a presumption in favour of keeping a building which is listed, but on occasions they are not kept and they are either radically altered or sometimes taken down. We really do want to move away from this notion that listing or delisting is the key thing. The key thing is what happens once you have identified a building as being of significance and what process then takes place to find a long-term, economic, viable use for that building so it can make a big contribution to the community. The number of listed building cases that we deal with which actually end up being in some way a blockage is absolutely miniscule.
Q162 Sir Paul Beresford: Do you think that when you asked people in your MORI poll how important they felt historic listed buildings to be, they realised that listed buildings include some 1950s and 1960s monstrosities, at least monstrosities from my point of view?
Mr Thurley: The public is incredibly aware of the programme which has been going on for the last 15 to 20 years to list post-war buildings; in fact it has been driven very heavily by public taste.
Q163 Christine Russell: You have tried to impress upon us this afternoon how committed you are to operating in real world scenarios and Deborah just told us about the need to improve the skills base. My question to you is: do you know what percentage of your frontline advisory staff who meet daily with property owners and local authorities has a degree in archaeology? The reason I ask that question is because in my previous existence as chair of a planning committee, virtually everyone I ever met from English Heritage had a degree in archaeology. So I am just asking you what the percentage is. You may not know off the top of your head.
Mr Thurley: It would certainly be interesting to find out precisely. What we would say is that historically English Heritage has been an organisation which has been driven by archaeologists because archaeology was the thing which used to be protected and buildings were only introduced into the frame relatively recently. What we can say is that we try to field archaeologists where archaeological issues are involved. Chester amphitheatre is a very good example; obviously archaeologists are involved in that.
Q164 Christine Russell: Do not forget the Georgian tea house.
Mr Thurley: We have not forgotten that. I can assure you that it would be impossible to forget that, given Chester's views about it. We also do make sure that our architects, our planners, our historians are involved and I think you will find that the proportion of archaeologists dealing with buildings issues these days is very small.
Q165 Chairman: I am sure we are going to hear from other witnesses later on about the benefits of investing in historic buildings in terms of drawing in other investment. Have you ever undertaken an assessment of the additional costs which can occur to developments as a result of listing?
Mr Thurley: We have actually got some information on that, but I do not have it at my fingertips.
Q166 Chairman: Is that something you could supply to the Committee?
Mr Thurley: If I am right that we have it, I am sure we can.
Chairman: That would be most helpful. On that note, may I thank you for your evidence.
Memoranda submitted by Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors,
Royal Institute of British Architects and Royal Town Planning Institute
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Mr Chris Brown, Chief Executive, Igloo Regeneration Fund, Dr Rob Pickard, University of Northumbria, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Mr George Ferguson, President, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Mr Mike Hayes, President, Corporate Director at Watford Borough Council and Mr Jack Warshaw, Director, Conservation Architecture and Planning, Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), examined.
Q167 Chairman: Good afternoon, thank you for coming. Would you state your names for the record, please?
Mr Warshaw: I am Jack Warshaw. I am head of a practice called Conservation Architecture and Planning; here with the RTPI this afternoon. I am the lead author of the RTPI's conservation good practice guide and a former head of conservation at Wandsworth Council.
Mr Hayes: I am Mike Hayes. I am currently President of the Royal Town Planning Institute. I work in local government, currently for Watford Borough Council, though in previous lives for Lambeth, Glasgow and Liverpool.
Mr Ferguson: George Ferguson, President of the RIBA.
Dr Pickard: Rob Pickard. I am a member of the RICS. I am also a member of the IHBC. I am at present a university lecturer in Newcastle, dealing with both RICS matters and historic conservation matters. I am a member of a Council of Europe expert group on the form of legislation to do with cultural heritage.
Mr Brown: Chris Brown, Director of Igloo Regeneration Fund and also representing the RICS this afternoon.
Chairman: We do usually give people the opportunity to make a brief statement if they wish to add anything to their written submission. Otherwise we will go to questions if you are happy to do that.
Q168 Christine Russell: May I invite you gentlemen to comment on how effective or otherwise you believe government agencies and arm's-length government agencies, quangos, whatever, are when they work in the field of regeneration? How effectively do they work?
Mr Ferguson: Are you referring both to organisations like English Heritage and the RDAs for instance?
Q169 Christine Russell: Absolutely; central government, local government, regional government.
Mr Ferguson: It is a very broad question, but in the question of English Heritage, they do their prime job extremely well and that is to protect and enhance our heritage. They are having a lot else pushed on them, but that is the job they do well. The RDAs are being very effective and we would probably all think and agree with some of the things which have been said about the needs for more skills within local authorities.
Mr Brown: May I pick up the point about RDAs? From my point of view, I see the RDAs reducing the amount of money and activity which is going into urban regeneration at the moment. I also see English Partnerships focusing increasingly on the sustainable communities plan, which, because it involved the growth areas in the South-East, means they are also moving their focus a little bit away from regeneration.
Q170 Christine Russell: How do you think the RDAs in the North are reducing the amount of attention and money they are giving to regeneration?
Mr Brown: They have hugely wide remits and they started with about 80 per cent of their budgets coming from things like a single regeneration budget. They are now increasingly focused all the way through the organisation, certainly at board level, the individuals there, certainly now in the lead departments, on the economic development agenda rather than the urban regeneration agenda. You need both, but I suspect the balance has gone a little awry.
Q171 Christine Russell: What about the RTPI?
Mr Hayes: There is a large number of organisations; they all have a different perspective on life, sometimes different skills and sometimes competing objectives. The key is: what are we going to do? It does strike me that holding the rein very often is the local authority. It is the local authority's task to assemble, to make these different perspectives, these different funding regimes, these different sets of expertise work. The issue very often is providing the expertise and resource at local level to put the local authority on the front foot, so it has vision and some sense of how that vision might be delivered so it can play that key role of co-ordination between these different agencies.
Mr Warshaw: It must be said that not all local authorities are equally effective. I am sure it is recognised that many are very proactive and have been able to utilise resources more than some others.
Q172 Christine Russell: Do you think there is a correlation between the number of historic buildings which a local authority has within its boundaries and its effectiveness? Is there a correlation there?
Mr Hayes: There may well be a correlation. A large number of buildings means that there is a necessity to develop and create the scarce skills in-house. It is very often the larger local authorities, or those which have very obvious historic inheritances, which have been able to develop expertise. Elsewhere, with a smaller number of listed buildings, a smaller number of local authorities, it is much more difficult to develop that in-house capability.
Mr Warshaw: There is no general rule.
Dr Pickard: A good example is Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Simon Thurley mentioned the Grainger Town regeneration project, which was one of the first conservation area partnership schemes and then a heritage economic regeneration scheme where you have seen the local authority, the Grainger Town Project, with people from English Heritage and the local authority being seconded, other agencies like the regional development agency, the single regeneration budget, as well as financial elements coming in, business operators in the community, residential associations working together. There are some examples where there are very good, best evidence examples which could be spread elsewhere. Newcastle is a place which has a very high density number of listed buildings and had a high number at risk which is perhaps unusual in so many other places in the country.
Q173 Christine Russell: George Ferguson mentioned the lack of skills within local government planning departments. May I turn the argument around and ask you about your own three separate organisations and invite you to comment on the skill level and perhaps the amount of training which goes on amongst your membership in the field of the historic environment and getting involved with regeneration schemes?
Dr Pickard: May I make a comment on this, because I think I can speak for both sides, being a chartered surveyor, but also a member of the IHBC and also having taught budding surveying students, as well as people who are going to conservation training? There is a gulf still between the two sides. Although English Heritage and the RICS and other bodies have been working very closely together since the mid-1990s with studies on the economics of conservation, it was probably recognised then that the two sides do not have enough understanding of each other's issues, particularly those working in conservation do not really understand the financial appraisal or development or the investment sides of the argument.
Q174 Christine Russell: Do surveyors really understand the need for good urban design?
Dr Pickard: That is another thing. From an educational point of view, we try to develop those things. It really depends on the module elements of those things. What you will find is that the natural surveyor will be the person who wants to ---
Q175 Christine Russell: Demolish the building.
Dr Pickard: Yes.
Mr Ferguson: We are certainly advocating having more learning together. It is very important that surveyors and planners and we learn together. Richard Rogers in the House of Lords only on 22 January, in the Committee stage of the Planning Bill, was advocating this. He was going so far as to say that planning and architecture should become one skill. Certainly we are saying that we should consider such things as a foundation course for planners and architects to work together. What we do feel is that we have the skills within the profession and we do not advocate that every architect is appropriate for every historic building. Some architects are less appropriate for historic buildings than others, while there are some absolutely brilliant designers who can add value to an historic building. We do not want to slot people into only dealing with historic buildings or only dealing with new buildings. There are wonderful cases, some which have come out of the whole lottery process, of where historic buildings and good contemporary architecture have gone really well together. That is a developing skill.
Mr Hayes: There is traditionally a lack of design awareness across the whole of the public sector and certainly until maybe the last decade there has been little incentive within the planning system to promote good design. That is changing and it needs to change. It is changing fast. We have 14,000 corporate members, of whom we reckon around 400 work in conservation in the public sector. That is not a large proportion. As an institute, we are working hard to reform planning education, both to widen the range of people coming into planning ---
Q176 Christine Russell: How are you doing that? How are you trying to make planning a more attractive proposition? Everyone wants to be architects? How many want to be planners?
Mr Hayes: How long do we have? We have been through two decades where planning has been relegated to the status of regulation. We are coming out of that and a good thing too. We are into the business of capturing the vision and the delivery of schemes on the ground through the planning process. We are in the business of changing the world, at local level, at regional level, at citywide level. That is about as exciting as it gets. It is difficult for people very often to get into any form of further education. So we are promoting at the moment one-year master courses, full year and promoting them particularly to young people, to women returners, to folk from black and minority ethnic communities to come and be planners.
Q177 Christine Russell: What are you doing with fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds who are still in school?
Mr Hayes: We are engaging through planning aid with communities at local level to enable people to engage with the planning process and at regional level, through our branches, we have a programme of visiting schools, getting involved with career's advice and the like. We are also - and this is relevant to the topic under consideration today, developing continuing professional development and a lifelong learning ethos, so that people who are qualified as planners can continue to develop their skill base. In terms of becoming design aware and conservation and regeneration aware, that is terrifically important.
Q178 Sir Paul Beresford: Is the statement that developments with a heritage aspect generally command a higher value in the marketplace correct?
Mr Warshaw: I do not think there is any central rule about that.
Q179 Sir Paul Beresford: Are there examples where it does?
Dr Pickard: It depends on the circumstances. Research has been done by the Investment Property Databank in association with the RICS for about ten years now which has shown quite consistently in certain places, for instance the South-East and London, that there is a prestige value to listed buildings. Elsewhere in the country, for instance Newcastle or some other northern cities, you would find that there is generally a lower value to office space and therefore it is perhaps more difficult to find the same prestige value. This whole question really depends upon this sort of research which has been going on for a while now on the economics of conservation, the economics of heritage and in a way that research is only just starting in the UK. The best examples would be from the United States and some European countries in Germany, but that is often the argument to use, to find out what benefits you create financially from investing in the heritage. We do not have that material with us now.
Q180 Sir Paul Beresford: Would you feel that there are examples of exactly the opposite, in other words the cost is higher just because of the listed building?
Dr Pickard: Yes, the costs can be higher certainly, but on the other hand the specialist skills you are going to have and the jobs you can create from re-using the heritage can be very significant. It is also being shown in a number of places where public money has gone into the heritage, that you have levered quite considerable numbers greater from the private sector in terms of investment. So there is an economic benefit from investing in the heritage.
Mr Brown: May I answer that from my practical experience? We invest money to get returns for policy holders and almost invariably - there will be the odd situation where it does not apply, but almost invariably - we will look to keep not only listed buildings but other unlisted but attractive or historically interesting buildings in the area, because we think it adds value. We are a long-term investor, so we invest over ten-plus years.
Mr Hayes: Very often there is a gap in funding and the public sector needs to come in and meet that. The value is way beyond the monetary value of the real estate created, a huge community value placed into heritage-led regeneration and the whole issue of the value in terms of sustainability as well.
Q181 Sir Paul Beresford: What is the attitude of the institutional funders?
Mr Hayes: The institutional funders will be risk averse by and large and will be looking for a return. It is very much the public sector role to bring in the private sector funding we can and the private sector skill that we can and where there is a gap, to meet the gap to the benefit of the wider community.
Mr Ferguson: My experience and the experience of a lot of our members is that conservation-led regeneration does add value. That is a generality, but it is a generality which would be true, whether it be in Leeds, Liverpool, Chester, Bath, wherever it is in general. You can think of Leeds, which I know Mr O'Brien is familiar with, take the Cors[?] area, the fact that was a conservation-led regeneration scheme, or take the Victoria Quarter which helped change the centre of gravity of Leeds in terms of its retail because of that historic value. The Prudential who did that recognised the added value that brought. There is another one in Leeds. I do not know why I keep thinking of Leeds, but it is a very good example of a city you do not necessarily think of as an historic city, but which is using history in schemes like the brand new glass covered scheme in the middle of Leeds which has the SAS-Radisson Hotel in it. It is using historic buildings in a very creative way, together with contemporary architecture. I have absolutely no doubt that those all add value. If you look at the sort of value which Urban Splash have managed to squeeze out of schemes, I know that they have given evidence. We happen to be working with them on a scheme and they squeeze the value out of schemes by using that added character. Sometimes you cannot get that added character in a new scheme, simply because historic buildings break current regulations and you cannot. There is a need for a look at how we break rules, I am talking about planning and building regulation rules, in order to get some of the excitement, charm, sense of place that one gets in historic schemes.
Q182 Sir Paul Beresford: I know this is a very broad question to ask, but could you touch on the risks you feel are specific to this type of scheme involving heritage compared with others?
Mr Ferguson: The biggest risk is delay. You are right about the institutions. The institutions are extremely conservative in terms of the way they approach things. What has happened with the institutions is that they get advised by the commercial agent, who advises them not to take that sort of risk, therefore they advise commercial agents in reverse. It is a circular argument which leads to a very conservative way of thinking. The biggest single risk is the question of the time it takes and the time is often a factor of the quality of the application. If people take the right decisions early on and get the right advice and put design high on their agenda and knowledge about historic buildings high on their agenda, they are more likely to get a quick result. Let us not disguise the fact: dealing with historic buildings is a longer process, is almost bound to be a longer process than on a virgin site for instance.
Mr Warshaw: It is vitally important to realise the import of George Ferguson's last comment. It is so often the case that neither the applicant, nor the applicant's team, nor the local authority knows sufficient about the building or even the area in question to be able to justify their proposals on the one hand or be able to judge them intelligently on the other. The application therefore becomes only the start of a longer process which should have been undertaken before the application was put in.
Q183 Sir Paul Beresford: We can all think of some superb examples, and you are a past master at them, of a paint brush across a screen and we just see this glowing building, but in a percentage of cases one would suspect that really what should happen is a bulldozer through the building. I am thinking of some of the 1950s and 1960s buildings. Would you agree?
Mr Ferguson: There are bound to be some cases where either a building has got beyond sensible repair or the situation has changed, its circumstances have changed. I do believe that it is right that if a building is judged to be listable for architectural, esthetic, historic reasons, there must be a presumption in favour of its retention. Therefore the onus is on those applicants and their architects to prove that they can do better. That is the whole thing. If you can design a dramatically better building or dramatically better - and I do mean dramatically better, not just marginally - than exists there, then there must be a case for removal of a listed building.
Sir Paul Beresford: I shall not mention my gasometers again.
Q184 Chairman: Let us try to get Mr Hayes' vigorous nodding on the record. You would agree.
Mr Hayes: Yes. I just wanted to recount an occasion when, as the director of planning, I applied for planning permission to demolish two Georgian houses in Liverpool, owned by the city council. That went to public inquiry and the inspector decided they ought to be demolished. The reason for our case was that they were totally shot, they were derelict and there was no feasible way of seeing them brought back into use in the market at that time.
Q185 Sir Paul Beresford: I am tempted to touch on my gasometers again. Since there is a review of the way in which English Heritage is approaching these sorts of matters, what would you suggest which might actually help? Should the system of delisting be speeded up?
Mr Ferguson: There should not be a system of delisting. Delisting should only be applied where there is a real circumstance for the removal of a building. I cannot see the point in having a general delisting programme.
Q186 Sir Paul Beresford: All right: procedure. I will change the word. English is my second language.
Mr Ferguson: No, no; I know exactly what you mean. What I mean is that the procedure is bound to entail you jumping through certain hoops, it is bound to be quite protective.
Q187 Sir Paul Beresford: If you were a developer sitting there with a 1950s building which you have decided has to come down, the local authority has decided has to come down, everybody seems to feel so, are the hoops too long, could they be shortened, could there be a more straightforward way of doing it?
Mr Ferguson: As architects we are often frustrated by the planning and the listed building consent, the length of time it takes. We would not want it to be sped up to the extent that it compromises the solution. It is a matter of getting the balance right. If there is real unjustified delay in the case of some planning permissions or things which have been dealt with by local authorities, and I can point to examples now, one I am dealing with where there is no objection, absolutely no objection, it is agreed that it is okay but it has taken nine months, one just wonders what on earth is happening. That is not a delisting case that is simply a listed building consent.
Mr Warshaw: Let us try to get this absolutely straight. The criteria for delisting are simply that on the one hand wrong information was given which formed the basis of listing in the first place, or, something has happened to it since it was listed in effect to take away the reason for listing. Otherwise, you simply apply for listed building consent to demolish and you use those criteria as something to justify the demolition.
Chairman: Thank you for that clarification.
Q188 Andrew Bennett: Can we just go through the planning process? If something is listed or in a conservation area, how far do people putting together a scheme really have to spend a lot more money up front before they get an idea as to whether the scheme is a runner or not?
Mr Warshaw: I believe that if enough is understood about either the building or the area in question beforehand, there should not be a significant amount of money which has to be spent up front to put together any scheme.
Q189 Andrew Bennett: You think they should be able to get outline planning permission rather than having to go for a detailed one?
Mr Warshaw: If a conservation area appraisal has been properly carried out and the opportunities, the negative parts as well as the positive parts, really well identified and the urban design work part of the system and all of the briefing and development master planning work actually carried out up front, it is not quite the same as an outline planning permission, but it amounts to a very positive steer about what should be acceptable at a particular location.
Dr Pickard: One of the problems may be to do with the bureaucracy in that at the present time there are many different permissions, consents. You may require listed building consent or planning permission. If you are on a site which is adjoining that within a conservation area, conservation area consent. It could also have an ancient monument on it. The ODPM is now looking at the simplification, the possibility of unified consent regimes, where matters could be brought together. That may assist to speed up the process.
Mr Brown: A quick comment from me about practicalities. We are doing regeneration in conservation areas all over the country. The reality in the present system is that you can get an outline planning permission in a conservation area, but the resistance you will get from local authorities varies from place to place and more or less at random. I take very much the points which have been made before, but it seems to me that for a 20-year regeneration programme over a 20-acre site comprising maybe 40 or 50 listed buildings, a detailed consent is just not feasible.
Mr Ferguson: What should accompany that outline permission is a strong master plan and a design statement and the master plan and the design statement should be judged and agreed and referred back to. That does not mean there cannot be improvement, but it should be seen as a defence against what we have seen happening, which is a slightly cynical use of the outline planning permission, to excite people with a vision and then retreat into the dull and the unimaginative. An outline planning permission concerns a lot of authorities, who feel that once they have given it they can be held to ransom by developers and I understand that concern. It is a concern of ours that some of our best architects are used at the early stages for so-called trophy architecture and are then replaced by less good designers, some of whom may not be architects.
Q190 Andrew Bennett: You are telling me that good practice is possible but that it does not always happen. Is the new planning legislation going to make it easier for good practice to happen or is it not going to make any difference?
Mr Ferguson: It is going in the right direction. It is a more transparent process, it is definitely referring very strongly to sustainable development, it is encouraging just what we are talking about in terms of conservation-led regeneration, it needs very strongly to signal the importance of good design, which it fails to do at the moment and we are hoping that this will be incorporated.
The Committee suspended from 5.30pm to 5.40pm for a division in the House
Q191 Chairman: Would you care to continue?
Mr Ferguson: I was particularly emphasising the need to install design into the Planning Bill. It has been accepted by government in the House of Commons and by Lord Rooker that this is an unanswerable case, that the matter of design should be included in the Planning Bill and it sounds as though it is a matter of how. We believe it should run alongside sustainability as an equal case to sustainability and that it should be defined in the planning guidance rather than in the Bill itself, but nevertheless mentioned and emphasised in the Bill. I say this very strongly, because it applies so much to listed buildings and conservation areas and the matter of the repair and care of our historic buildings cannot be separated from this whole question of the importance of design.
Mr Hayes: Two points about upcoming legislation. One is that I hope the new local development framework concept at local level will enable the planning system to be much more at the delivery end and much more on the front foot. The great thing it does is separate strategy from local delivery. The concept of area action plans, which will allow local authorities to work with partners and with communities to join funding regimes and the like, to set up regeneration schemes in advance of developers coming along seems to me to be potentially a very, very positive move. On a more general front, an upcoming best value performance indicator in relation to the quality of the planning process, requiring local authorities to state whether they have urban design skills and conservation skills, is also absolutely, in my view, a move in the right direction.
Q192 Chairman: May I move to the question of who benefits from heritage-led regeneration? Mostly it leads to higher property costs, so it could be argued that the benefits are only to those who can afford to move into such communities. Is this not just about gentrification?
Mr Hayes: It certainly does not have to be. The whole business of bringing historic buildings back into use is about finding end users. If we are clever about finding those end users in relation to community need, maybe housing need or whatever, it ought to be possible, particularly making greater use of CPO powers, to join up the resource of the historic building or the historic area and the end user who will not simply look at rising property value but social benefit and social good.
Mr Ferguson: One hopes that successful regeneration brings greater prosperity with it. There is a certain balance between the fact that inevitably successful regeneration does inflate local prices. There is a sort of inevitability about that. You cannot escape from it. It does not necessarily mean mass yuppification. What compensates for it currently and is used extensively is the matter of affordable and social housing within private schemes. Our view is that that could be spread in a more creative manner rather than just simply loaded on the private housing developer and that it would be healthier to do so. A successful regeneration is not just a mix of building types and styles and old and new, it must also incorporate as much mix to our minds in the way of forms of tenure and types of use. It does seem strange to us that this whole burden is currently on the private housing developer.
Mr Brown: There is a missing ingredient and that is affordable work space. We are getting much better at affordable housing, but we are very poor at affordable work space. It is normally the artists and the creative people who are first there and who are first to be pushed out by regeneration. It seems to me in policy terms quite easy to sort out. So long as those people can be assisted to get ownership early in the process and benefit from the rising values, or similar systems to affordable housing put in place, then we can maintain that mix, which we actually value. Most people do not like sterilised, gentrified areas.
Q193 Chairman: May I ask RICS specifically? You make reference in your evidence to the notion of the RDAs and EP having historic environment targets whilst English Heritage should have regeneration targets. What do you have in mind and how might they be measured?
Mr Brown: I would probably draw the comparison with British Waterways, who were given a regeneration mission in 2001, Waterways for Tomorrow. That transformed the way they did business. It seems to me that we heard some interesting things from English Heritage earlier. The number of people with private sector experience I counted from the response was one. It seems to me that if your target is to conserve historic buildings, you will fill your staff with archaeologists. If your task is to do with regeneration, you will start recruiting a wider skill base of people to allow you to hit those targets.
Q194 Christine Russell: I just want to be absolutely clear what your views on the listing process are. You said at the beginning, quite rightly, that there should be a presumption of retaining listed buildings. At a later stage you criticised the length of time it can take to obtain listed building consents. If you were rewriting the listing regulations, what would you put in them? How would you improve the existing system.
Mr Ferguson: The best way of improving it is to bring it all under one umbrella. We do have various forms of protection and I would hope that would be the way the DCMS lean towards bringing it under a single umbrella, although nevertheless you then have to have discrimination, you have to have the skills to recognise how many hoops you have to jump through, because you will still have the buildings which are now scheduled monuments, you will still have the grades of listing, you will still have conservation area consent, so they require subjective judgment in order to deal with them at the appropriate level and in the appropriate time.
Q195 Christine Russell: I am assuming you would go along with the suggestion we heard this afternoon from English Heritage that there will be no more spot listing once the development process had started on a certain site. Yes?
Mr Ferguson: Yes. What Simon Thurley said was absolutely right. Our clients want clarity; they want certainty, more than speed. That matters much more to them. What is incredibly destructive is to be led down a path which is suddenly stopped. We would accept that complicated planning applications take time. What we do not accept is that they zig-zag or go into reverse. That is what we need to avoid.
Q196 Christine Russell: I assume that you will accept that a different set of skills and expertise is perhaps needed when you are working in an historic environment. Can I ask you to be honest about how good and extensive those skills are within your membership? It seems to me that in every town and city there is one specialist architectural practice which deals with historic buildings.
Mr Ferguson: You have a very fine one in Chester.
Q197 Christine Russell: I am just trying to tease out of you, as a professional ---
Mr Ferguson: It is true, as some architects have a greater experience of working with hospitals, some architects have greater experience of working with historic buildings. What is surprising, and delightfully surprising, is that you might get an architect who is seen as a very contemporary architect being extremely clever with an historic building. The Great Court of the British Museum is an extreme example, a rather large one. That happens very delightfully in very small buildings as well. It is undoubtedly true that some architects are better at handling it, have a better understanding of the historic environment than others. It will always be thus. Another thing is that there are some local architects who have a greater understanding of their place than those who are flown in from outside. Those are generalisations and I can show you really good cases which break all those generalisations.
Q198 Christine Russell: You have no fears that those kinds of skills are on the decline in your profession.
Mr Ferguson: No. Far from being on the decline, it is something we take extremely seriously and that there is more training for and the whole matter of accreditation which has come in recently, which has been forced on us by English Heritage. We accept the rigour that it brings will mean that there are more architects who are having, for their own economic good, to get more interested and au fait with historic building issues.
Q199 Christine Russell: May I ask you for your comments on the reliance which appears to be happening on procurement through design and building contractors? How much of a risk does that pose?
Mr Ferguson: It is something which personally I do not welcome. It has been a trend which means that we, as professionals, are put in a more awkward position in that our client becomes the contractor, whose real interest is to get out as economically as possible with as much profit as possible, instead of our client being the developer or end user. The preferred client is the end user, who is interested in getting the best quality result. That is generalisation, but one can see where the pressure is coming from. We are put in a position of being compromised more often when we are working for the contractor in some form of design and build situation, whether it be PFI or not, than we are when we are working for the end user or the developer themselves.
Q200 Andrew Bennett: Preserving historic buildings is distorting history, is it not? Is there any justification for keeping the Victorian building unless you keep the pea soup fog to go with it, or the Elizabethan houses without the excrement in the street?
Dr Pickard: The conservation philosophy most people working in the conservation world will accept, even going back to William Morris last century, accepts the change which occurs to buildings and we do not restore back to one period. We recognise that change is important and it is also part of the process of management that we can allow further change to occur, including the rehabitation for new uses. We do not think about it as being at just one period, we think about it as a continuing history in a sense.
Mr Hayes: It is something of a cliché, but it is using the past to build a future. That is the trick.
Chairman: Do we really want to leave this session on a cliché? It looks as though we are going to have to. Thank you very much for your evidence.
Memoranda submitted by Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and Heritage Lottery Fund
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Mr Jon Rouse, Chief Executive, Mr Les Sparks, Commissioner, Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), Ms Carole Souter, Director and Ms Judy Cligman, Director of Policy and Research, Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), examined.
Q201 Chairman: Good afternoon. Would you be so kind as to give your names for the record, please?
Mr Rouse: I am Jon Rouse, Chief Executive of CABE.
Mr Sparks: I am Les Sparks. I am a commissioner on CABE. I am also a commissioner on English Heritage. I was the head of planning at Bath for ten years and Birmingham for eight and a half years.
Ms Souter: I am Carole Souter and I am Director of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Ms Cligman: I am Judy Cligman. I am the Director of Policy and Research at the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Q202 Chairman: I have given everyone else the opportunity to make a brief statement if they need to add anything to their written submission, otherwise we shall go straight to questions. Good. As NDPBs, how clear do you find the guidance you receive from central government departments on heritage-led regeneration?
Mr Rouse: Reasonably clear and getting better, is the way I would describe it. Obviously it is not easy because you have two government departments each providing part of the package: DCMS the designation material and ODPM leading on the relationship between the historic environment and planning. The way the two processes of review have gone forward in parallel this time round has been a lot more joined up than perhaps it has been in the past.
Ms Souter: I very much agree. We have a very broad definition of heritage, so of course we are also working with DEFRA on the natural environment, countryside and so on. We have good working relationships with all the departments we need to work with.
Q203 Chairman: Do you think the guidance you receive is clear enough?
Ms Souter: Yes. We are in a position where, as a lottery distributor, the guidance for us comes through our policy and financial directions as to those things we should be looking to do and looking at social and economic deprivation is one of our policy directions. Within that it is then for our trustees to decide how they distribute their funding on an individual case by case basis.
Q204 Chairman: There seems to be some concern, with the change from conservation area partnerships and the move to heritage economic regeneration schemes. People have some doubts about how long these particular initiatives are going to last. Is there anything the government can do to provide reassurance about the sustainability of some of these funding streams?
Ms Souter: The important thing for any funding stream is to make sure it is doing the job it needs to do at that particular time. That may well mean that over time you need to change the rules slightly, refocus, make sure you are hitting the button. From our point of view, our current townscape heritage initiative schemes which are our regeneration schemes in areas, are something to which we are committed and which is built on the conservation area partnership schemes of the past.
Q205 Mr Betts: I think you heard the question I asked of English Heritage earlier about your working together. Do you think you work together effectively? What are you looking at in terms of the grant regimes to avoid the duplication of applications and the problems that incurs for people?
Ms Souter: I think we do work together effectively, not least with English Heritage being our advisers on these schemes. One of the benefits of being able to work in parallel is that we have slightly different areas in which we can work. We are not bound by English Heritage's restrictions on Grade I and II* buildings, for example. We can look at any building which a local community feels is of value to that community and that gives us a broader canvas to work on. Where we can work together, it increases the benefit we can get for the money we have to put into a given scheme.
Q206 Mr Betts: Do you not have a wider regeneration remit perhaps than English Heritage in terms of the sorts of schemes you are looking at? Does that create any differences?
Ms Souter: Yes. It is true, in that we have a broader canvas, which we can work on, so we can look at schemes in areas which simply would not come within English Heritage's vires or key important areas. Working together is the best way of getting the most out of the money we separately have available for regeneration schemes. I do not think we have had any tensions in the past in that area. The churches scheme is another good example where we can pool our resources and make sure we have the widest spread of projects which can benefit from those resources.
Q207 Mr Betts: Looking at the wider spread of activities you might support, I suppose people think of the lottery as giving money to lots and lots of different sorts of projects which can be appreciated by a wide range of people, because it is the wide range of people which contributes. How do you avoid getting into a position where you are seen as taking from the many but giving to a number of projects which are really only enjoyed by the few, they are a bit highbrow in terms of the people who might appreciate them?
Ms Souter: There is a number of different ways in which we do that. First of all, we develop all of our strategy and planning in a very open and collaborative way; our strategic plan is based on a lot of consultation with the public and with representative bodies. We use mechanisms like citizens juries to make sure we are informing ourselves what people feel about heritage and what they feel is important. We also do a great deal of work at grassroots level. Our current strategic plan focuses on getting more small grants out to local communities and the majority of our grants in the last financial year were for less than £50,000, which is probably not something which is widely appreciated, because obviously the big projects tend to be the ones which get the most national publicity. Regionally and locally communities are probably much more aware of the smaller grants we give and the smaller projects we support, because they are widely reported and widely supported locally.
Q208 Mr Betts: You have a particular remit to look at schemes and get involved in activities which reduce economic and social deprivation. Do you have a particular target for that? Can you demonstrate you are achieving that fundamental objective?
Ms Souter: We have a continuing monitoring of where our funds are going across the country and we are aiming to ensure an equitable spread of grants across the whole of the UK. In the last 12 to 18 months we have introduced two or three development staff into each of our regional and country teams to go out and look at those areas which combine low levels of heritage lottery funding in the past with evidence of economic deprivation. We are working very hard to get those communities to think of themselves as communities which can come to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funding. It is very early days yet to be able to demonstrate the extent to which that is working, but we are clear already that a lot of communities are coming forward now and saying they did not realise they could apply and now we have gone out and spoken to them there are many more applications from those areas.
Q209 Christine Russell: May I ask CABE some questions? I was quite intrigued to read in your submission that you recommend perhaps considering for listing buildings which you describe as having a community worth. What do you mean? Cherished local landmarks like the village pub or the corner shop?
Mr Rouse: A little bit like that. I will tell you where this comes from and why we reached that tentative conclusion. Basically, if you map where conservation areas and listed buildings are against levels of deprivation, using the indices of deprivation, what you find is that it is almost an exact correlation and the richest areas have the most listed buildings and conservation areas. That is partly a reflection of the fact that heritage does add value, people like living in areas which have lots of heritage. There is always a danger that can almost become self-perpetuating and add to the divide. We come across situations where even planning inspectors within more deprived areas which have less recognised listed buildings and conservation areas, allow things through which would never have been allowed through if it were anywhere near a conservation area. Over the years how does an area of relative deprivation with very few historic assets which can be listed in terms of their architectural and historic significance protect its own historic identity? We just wondered, in terms of the system, whether community worth, the value a community places on a building or an area, should not somehow be recognised more clearly within the system. Did it just have to be something which was down to the experts or could communities have a voice?
Q210 Christine Russell: Is that not going to lead to mega inconsistencies across the planning system? You are going to have a building in one area which is afforded protection, whereas the same building in another area has no protection at all.
Mr Rouse: To be fair, within our response we do not say it is a perfect solution, we say that there are problems and it could lead to a lot more appeals. What we were trying to drive at there was how to stop a two-tier system from developing, whereby there is protection in richer areas and anything goes in poorer areas. We had a case in Leicestershire a few months ago in an area where the local population were trying to stop Kentucky Fried Chicken painting the Colonel's face on the roof of a shop. The planning inspector gave that firm the go-ahead because it was not near or in a conservation area. Where are the protections for communities which do not have access to an historic environment as defined by the experts?
Mr Sparks: One of the things being looked at by the review of the designation process at the moment is the relationship between statutory designations at a national level and local designations made by local authorities. There is a big opportunity to develop the latter in respect of buildings which, looking at them strictly on the basis of their architectural and historic criteria, may not merit listing, but which, are very important within a community. Local people frequently come forward looking for protection for a building because it has some significance for their community. They get a rebuff when they are told it is not of the necessary standard. We could develop this aspect of local listing to very great benefit.
Q211 Christine Russell: You must be able to see the dangers. I can think of a community where perhaps MacDonald's want to come and convert the local chapel which is a local landmark. What you are then going to do is put the local authority in a planning appeal situation, are you not, up against the monied lawyers from MacDonald's?
Mr Rouse: We accept the difficulties. What we are trying to drive at is that this two-tier system exists and the gap is getting wider. How do areas of deprivation which do not have many historic buildings protect their local identity?
Q212 Christine Russell: May I go on to ask you about all the, some would call it additional layers of bureaucracy, let us say, interested parties who are responsible for the built heritage? You have English Heritage, from whom we have heard, you have Heritage Lottery Fund and now CABE have set up the Urban Panel.
Mr Rouse: You have the chair here.
Q213 Christine Russell: That gives design advice, I believe. What is that doing that English Heritage is not doing?
Mr Sparks: I am glad you asked me that question. The Urban Panel was actually set up by English Heritage originally, but it is now a joint CABE/English Heritage Urban Panel. It is a collection of very distinguished - apart from me perhaps - people from a range of backgrounds: architects, planners, engineers, historians, archaeologists, people from regeneration backgrounds, development backgrounds. We go and visit historic towns and cities, hopefully at an opportune moment in their life, when something of significance is being contemplated. Our remit is to go there as friends to look at what is being suggested.
Q214 Christine Russell: Do you invite yourselves?
Mr Sparks: No, we always make sure we are welcome and we are invited. We may engineer the invitation, but we would never go anywhere we were not welcome. We have always been welcomed, wherever we have gone. We go there to listen to what people have to say, what they tell us about their town or city, what they are trying to achieve there. We do not go there to preach or to tell them that they have got it wrong, but we go there perhaps to share the collective expertise which we have gathered from previous visits in order to provide suggestions about other solutions which we have seen adopted in other places. What we are focusing on is not a design review service; this is about looking at the strategic development plans, master plans, the overall approach to how you get the best out of the historic environment, the place which has been inherited from the past, in order to steer the place forward to a confident future.
Q215 Christine Russell: How do you get on when you try to sell good, modern design in an historic environment to local people?
Mr Sparks: Increasingly with very willing acceptance. Often people struggle with what is good modern design, but increasingly these days people recognise that our towns and cities need good modern buildings to exist alongside treasured old ones.
Q216 Christine Russell: Do you think we are genuinely going to move forward rather than just be building pastiches of houses?
Mr Sparks: Yes. We went through a period where perhaps we were in a bit of a cul-de-sac during the 1980s. It was an over-reaction to some of the most unfortunate excesses of the 1960s and 1970s, where buildings which were very bad buildings were not necessarily bad buildings because of the architecture per se, but because of the relationship between that architecture and the historic environment; the relationships were wrong. I do not believe pastiche has really won many hearts and minds.
Q217 Christine Russell: It has local people.
Mr Sparks: Not always; no. I think a lot of people feel that in the end it is not really very convincing. I am increasingly meeting local people who say they would really like to have some good modern buildings for their town.
Mr Rouse: We are also fans of and passionate about good traditional architecture. What we are against is bad pastiche, not pastiche per se. There are some very good examples of traditional schemes done with great craftsmanship and with great ingenuity, using the right source materials and creating environments which are absolutely fantastic to be in. The problem schemes are those which fall somewhere in between. They are neither brilliant, modern, contemporary architecture, nor good traditional architecture, they are just bad pastiche.
Q218 Christine Russell: How concerned are you about what seems to have happened on some schemes where you have had renowned architects coming in, putting forward original designs, everyone has been very pleased, attention has turned away? What you have actually ended up with is a fairly mediocre design because those renowned architects have not seen the scheme through to completion.
Mr Rouse: This is absolutely right and we have published guidance on this called Protect and Design Quality through the Planning System which gives planning authorities a blow-by-blow account, including draft policies, draft decision letters, draft conditions, draft planning agreement statements which they can use to stop that happening. That is incredibly important. It is very difficult to stop through intellectual property protection copyright. It is very difficult to stop through planning law which is concerned primarily with abuses and not with the hand of the architect. There are mechanisms and we have been through them all and brought them all together in one place in this document.
Q219 Andrew Bennett: Both organisations have been in existence long enough now to make a difference. If we look at the period you have both been in existence, the deficit in the number of people with training and skills in planning and conservation has got worse and worse.
Mr Rouse: You are absolutely right and I have said as much very publicly and vocally. It is now some five years since Lord Rogers' urban task force reported. He said that skills were the number one deficit, both in terms of urban design and conservation. The reality is that we have seen very little done about it as a result. We are now all waiting Sir John Egan's report on how we solve this skills deficit and the most important thing is that we act very promptly because we have wasted enough time already.
Ms Souter: We would entirely agree that a good level of skills is absolutely crucial to the quality schemes we are looking to see. We do ask for training plans in our bigger schemes. We do ask people to demonstrate how they are going to share skills and lead to the growth of skills, but it is not something which one body is going to do on its own. The Egan report will be important, but the work which is under way with the various training bodies to look at appropriate schemes is going to be incredibly important for all of that.
Q220 Andrew Bennett: Are you doing anything to encourage people in schools to think about planning and design as a career?
Mr Rouse: We certainly are. We have a charity called CABE Education. It is a membership organisation which teachers and LEA officials and other educators can join. We provide them with materials which go alongside different key stages. We have a joint committee with the Department for Education and Skills, which looks at different subject areas. We need to do a lot more. We need more resources to do that, but it has made a good start.
Q221 Andrew Bennett: Start off by telling me how much resource you have.
Mr Rouse: The budget this year for the CABE Education charity is just under £500,000.
Q222 Andrew Bennett: How much do you need?
Mr Sparks: To do the job which needs to be done through CABE Education we need somewhere in the region of £2 million a year.
Ms Souter: We do not have a particular programme of that kind as it is clearly not one of our core purposes. We do have a programme addressed to teenagers, 18- to 20-year-olds, called Young Roots which is involved in interesting them, exciting them, putting them in touch with heritage issues generally. That sort of route is a very powerful route for getting young people to think that is something they can influence, something they can be involved with.
Q223 Andrew Bennett: So are you spending tuppence while they are spending a penny?
Ms Souter: No, we are spending rather more than that.
Q224 Andrew Bennett: How much?
Ms Souter: About £5 million on that particular programme.
Q225 Andrew Bennett: What else do you need to do? It is alright waiting for Sir John Egan, but what are you going to do as organisations?
Mr Rouse: The other big area is professional training. You had the institutions before you previously and their domain is really undergraduate and postgraduate education.
Q226 Andrew Bennett: So you are blaming them.
Mr Rouse: No, I am not blaming them, but there are things they can do better. I thought it was a very joined-up performance tonight, but they have not always been quite so joined-up in the past. They have something called an urban design alliance which is a very under-resourced organisation which they are all meant to fund and that could do a lot of good in terms of pushing through into university education and making sure that these issues are properly considered. Our main job is really to focus beyond that on professional development, about giving help and assistance and training and mentoring and inspiration to people who are leading regeneration projects out in the field and to planning officers and to local authority members. This year we have managed just over 2,000 training days with the resources we have available. I think we need at least to quintuple that, up to 1,000 training days a year, if we are going to make a serious impact.
Chairman: On that positive and upbeat note, may I thank you for your evidence.