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LISTING SYSTEM MUST NOT BE IGNORED

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LETTERS

Surely Isabel Allen hasn't taken her editorial line from the DCMS (AJ 01.06.06)? We in the Twentieth Century Society have been struck by how many people are rather fond of the Commonwealth Institute - but that is not the point.

Listing is an index of architectural and/or historical importance, regardless of whether the roof leaks, and the correctness of the Institute's listing (or the basic soundness of its construction) has not been seriously disputed.

There is already a perfectly adequate system for deciding if demolishing a listed building can be justified by its intrinsic aws; it is called a public inquiry (and we can only assume that the Institute's trustees do not care to follow the normal procedures in case they lose the argument). As Ed Dorrell rightly remarks on another page, the nefarious legislation being proposed by government ministers could 'jeopardise the entire listing system'.

For if worthy aims are allowed to override the listing system in favour of realising maximum profit, no historic building owned by charitable trustees - whether the Commonwealth Institute or, say, an almshouse by Wren - will be safe. Where we agree with Isabel Allen is when she says that the government is demonstrating 'a lofty disregard for procedure or precedent' - but we are all getting used to that, in this as in other spheres.

Gavin Stamp, chairman, Twentieth Century Society

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