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EH rethinks listing for doomed Plymouth building

English Heritage (EH) is to reconsider whether to list a 1952 NAAFI building in Plymouth’s city centre, even though it is already being pulled down

The start of demolition work last week on the Hoe Centre, designed by Ernest Martin Joseph, provoked outrage from architects, the Twentieth Century Society and local residents.

Listed among the city’s top 25 architectural gems by the Architecture Centre Devon and Cornwall, the Scandinavian-styled Hoe Centre was home to the University of Plymouth’s architecture school until 2007, when it moved to the Henning Larsen-designed Roland Levinsky Building.

Now the university wants to build student accommodation on the site, although formal plans are yet to be drawn up.

Jon Wright of the Twentieth Century Society: ‘It’s terribly disappointing. This building was eminently re-usable. Plymouth Council does not want to accept the fact that it has the best post-war planned city in the country.’

Local architect David Sheppard agreed: ‘It is so unsustainable in terms of the embodied energy necessary to demolish an existing building together with the associated transportation costs of waste materials to landfill sites, resulting in a vacant site requiring all the necessary embodied energy required to re-build and create another building in its place.

‘It is truly a ridiculous state of affairs when our heritage is just swept away with no notion of its history or the future consequence, which once gone, can never be resurrected.’

The Hoe Centre as it was in the late 1950s

The Hoe Centre as it was in the late 1950s

Despite refusing to list the building at Grade II in 2006, EH said it would ‘carefully consider’ the case again. It urged the university and the local authority to think about the ‘imaginative re-use of the existing building’.

A university spokesman said: ‘For the last two years the Hoe Centre has been derelict, and we have established that there is no interest in the building due to its very poor state and associated public-safety considerations.’

Other comments:

Phil Yunnie of Gillespie and Yunnie Architects said: ‘The Hoe Centre is an iconic and much loved building within Plymouth. It is a great shame that a viable, sustainable use for this site can not be found which includes the retention or creative adaptation of the existing building.’

A spokesman for Plymouth City Council said: ‘We did support an application for listing back in 2006 but this was rejected by English Heritage. The university does not require our permission to demolish as the building is not listed and has no residential properties in the immediate vicinity.’

Readers' comments (1)

  • david walters

    Having worked there in the late 1970s and early 80s I feel very sad to see this fine old building become derelict. We put a lot of sweat equity into refashioning a school of architecture out of that old NAAFI!

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