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Milton Keynes shopping centre faces listing battle

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Tony Banks, the heritage minister, may list a 1979 shopping centre in a controversial battle over its future.

English Heritage has submitted a report to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Its recommendations are being kept secret, but the Milton Keynes Forum, a community group, believes that eh is proposing a Grade II* listing.

Banks' final say will be made after a visit to the centre; an unusual move for ministers when making listing decisions, said a department spokesman, but the importance and controversial nature of the centre made visiting it crucial. It was designed by Derek Walker and finished in 1979.

The building's owner aims to rip out planting and benches, alter shop fronts and clutter gangways with barrows, said Margaret Tallet, a retired architect and secretary of the Milton Keynes Forum. This would ruin the modular layout of the internal streets (aj 27.11.97).

'The owner says the listing will slow them down and that it is 'just a glass and steel box',' she said. 'Other shopping areas such as Liberty and Peter Jones have been listed. This centre must be listed II*.'

The forum has powerful friends. Sir Norman Foster and Sir Philip Powell have written to the government in support of the centre. Many feel its future, however, is not safe with Banks, who they feel is 'untutored' in design and unsympathetic to modern buildings.

Powell, who wrote to culture secretary Chris Smith last year, said the building was 'one of the few really great shopping centres of our century at home and abroad', and said it should be listed Grade II*. 'I would put the interior above the exterior,' he said this week. 'It seems they have brought in consulting gnomes to prettify and businify it, which is a wretched thing to do.'

No date has been set for the visit, but it will be private and low-key.

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