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Fears over post-war listings as CABE role is axed

Fears have been raised about a lack of architectural expertise in the listed building process after it emerged that CABE will no longer advise on decisions

The first scheme to be affected is MAKE’s contentious proposal for UBS’ headquarters at 5 Broadgate in the City of London. Planning permission was granted last month but English Heritage is shortly expected to give its recommendation on proposals to list earlier phases of the Broadgate campus pictured. DCMS has confirmed that CABE will not be commenting on this decision or on future listing cases.

CABE has played a role in the listing of post-1944 buildings since 2001, providing a second opinion on recommendations made by English Heritage.

But the organisation will no longer provide its views after its budget was axed by DCMS and it merged with the Design Council.

Richard Simmons, former chief executive at CABE, said the organisation provided an architectural view that could now be lacking. ‘Listing involves considering both historical and architectural importance,’ he said. ‘English Heritage’s principle area of expertise is history and heritage. We brought contemporary architectural expertise.’

Peter Stewart, former director of design review at CABE and principal at Peter Stewart Consultancy, echoed Simmons’ views, adding that a second opinion is a necessary part of the listing process. ‘Listing recommendations are meant to be objective and impartial but people’s enthusiasms come into it,’ he said. ‘Over the years there has been a whittling away of checks and balances.’

CABE played a memorable role in the debate over whether Birmingham Central Library should be listed (pictured below). English Heritage and the 20th Century Society called on the government to protect the building, but CABE wrote to architecture minister Margaret Hodge advising that the building was not worthy of listing.

Hodge followed CABE’s advice and the listing application was denied.

Postscript

Paul Finch, chairman of Design Council CABE added: ‘It is worth noting that 19 times out of 20 CABE agreed with EH recommendations, thereby reinforcing rather than diminishing the listing process.’

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