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Milton Keynes listing marks 'sea change' in ministerial attitude

New architecture minister John Penrose has listed the Milton Keynes shopping centre and upheld the listing of two other controversial post-war buildings

The move, which follows eight years of wrangles about whether the half a mile-long building should be listed, signifies a marked departure from his predecessors’ stance on late Twentieth Century design.

Previous incumbent Margaret Hodge refused to list post-war buildings on at least four separate occasions, including going against English Heritage’s (EH) advice by refusing statutory protection for BDP’s Preston bus station and John Madin’s Birmingham library.

Designed by Christopher Woodward, Derek Walker and Stuart Mosscrop, the 1979 glass and steel shopping centre will be listed at Grade II and becomes the first building to be listed in Milton Keynes.

Penrose said: ‘Post war buildings can, more than others, divide opinion.  The “test of time” cannot be rushed, so the minister – me on this occasion - has to weigh the advice of experts and, where there is no clear consensus, find a way through that helps protect what’s truly excellent

‘These are interesting and eye-catching buildings that clearly merit the extra protection that comes with listed status.’

Meanwhile the minister also shot down calls to reconsider the grade II listed-status of the circular 1957 local authority-designed Coventry Market and the Castle House Co-Operative department store in Sheffield, built in 1964.

There seems to be a complete sea change to the attitude of Margaret Hodge

Jon Wright of the Twentieth Century Society said: ‘There seems to be a complete sea change to the attitude of Margaret Hodge. After the Leeds University listing we can now see that there is a totally different ministerial approach to post-war architecture. The refusal to overturn the other two listing decisions underlines that the review process for listing is working.’

He added: ‘Penrose has the awareness of what EH are doing and has the common sense to listen to his advisers on the historic environment and not factor in extraneous issues such as fit for purpose during the lisitng process.’

The Department for Media Culture and Sport (DCMS) however admitted last month’s decision to list Chamberlin Powell & Bon’s brutalist Leeds University campus was a mistake and should have been approved at ministerial level.

Penrose today also however refused to list the 1966 Howell Killick Partridge & Amis-designed Founders Tower at St Anne’s College, Oxford.


Verdict on the Founders Tower at St Anne’s College, Oxford

The Secretary of State acknowledges the advice of English Heritage which recommends listing the building. On balance, however, the Secretary of State is persuaded by the evidence that illustrates that the Gatehouse architecturally is not of special interest, and has no special decoration or craftsmanship. It does not relate well to adjoining buildings, and does not illustrate important aspects of social, economic, cultural or military history and is not an exceptionally important example of the work of architects Howell, Killick, Partridge and Amis.


Read the decision letters for Milton Keynes shopping centre, Coventry Market, Castle House co-operative department store, and Founders Tower, St Anne’s College, Oxford

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