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NOTHING IS SACROSANCT SIMPLY BECAUSE OF ITS AGE - I WOULD DEMOLISH ANY BUILDING IF IT WERE TO BE REPLACED BY A BETTER ONE

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OPINION - TOM BLOXHAM

I was very worried to hear that Channel 4 is compiling a list of the 10 buildings that members of the public would most like to see demolished.

Park Hill in Sheffield is looking a likely high entry - just as Hawkins\Brown and Urban Splash are coming up with a scheme to save it.

I am really concerned that as soon as people start to think there is a problem with a building, they assume that the obvious solution is to demolish it. It's like suggesting that if an individual falls sick, they ought to be put down.

Or that if your car breaks down, it should be scrapped.

When I was a child, Victorian mansions were being demolished because they had rising damp. And when we founded Urban Splash 10 years ago, beautiful Victorian mills, warehouses and factories in Manchester and Liverpool were being pulled down.

Urban Splash has made its name and built its reputation through saving old industrial buildings that had been earmarked for demolition, such as Ducie House and Box Works in Manchester;

Matchworks, Concert Square and the Collegiate in Liverpool;

and Lister Mills in Bradford.

These buildings have been restored, won architecture prizes and created homes and jobs that have revitalised the local economies.

No one would consider demolishing these classic Victorian warehouses or mansions today, yet people are still crying out for the demolition of good Victorian terraces and concrete buildings from the 1960s. Yes, these buildings often have problems.

They do need surgery and attention and some elements of them often don't work, but other elements do.

Demolition is an easy solution and takes no thought.

It can be undertaken relatively quickly and cheaply, and is very visible. Politicians and mass housebuilders like it, but there are often better options.

In Salford, Urban Splash is showing how a radical makeover by ShedKM can revitalise the back-to-back terrace - and from the number of enquiries the sales team has already received, it seems there is mass demand from the public for these allegedly unloved two-up, two-down terraces.

Philosophically, I am not against demolition. Indeed, I would demolish any building (except a very few buildings of real historical significance), providing it were to be replaced with one of better quality.

Nothing is sacrosanct simply because of its age. At New Islington, Manchester's Millennium Community, Urban Splash is demolishing an estate of 1970s low-rise houses because they have so many fundamental problems.

Demolition does have its place, but it should be a last resort.

With thought and good architecture, many old buildings can be adapted and brought back into use.

Not just city-centre Victorian warehouses or rural barns, but other building types, including northern terraces and concrete tower blocks.

Conservation is hard work and is completely discouraged by VAT legislation, but it is also interesting, fun and sustainable.

So, before we vote to demolish any other buildings, let's first explore interesting ways to save them.

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