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Fur flies between English Heritage and the London Assembly over publicly managed listed buildings

A bitter row has broken out between English Heritage (EH) and the London Assembly over the restraints experienced in publicly managed listed buildings in London.

According to a statement issued by the London Assembly following a hearing yesterday (18.04.07), public bodies - such as the fire, police and health services - are being inhibited by the listed-building process.

However, EH has slammed the Assembly statement, claiming it has produced a 'biased' report of the committee hearing when its results were actually very positive.

The committee was called to yesterday's hearing to listen to views from representatives of each sector, who reportedly claimed that 'at times they struggled to modernise a building so that it was fit for purpose', adding that 'these constraints meant the only option was for public bodies to move to modern premises'.

EH is furious with the Assembly, and has issued a statement in response saying it is more than possible for the public sector to work in listed buildings in the 21st century.

EH said: 'Though repair costs to a listed building may be higher because of the need for specialist skills, overall it is cheaper to retain and adapt a building than to demolish and rebuild.

'The high build-specification of many historic public buildings means that they remain high-quality structures in the 21st century, and adaptation or insertion of modern technology and facilities is normally possible.'

Despite this, the report from the Assembly states that an official from the Metropolitan Police Service said the listing constraints in police stations 'rubbed' against human-rights legislation.

Assembly member and committee chairman Tony Arbour said: 'We hear from EH that listed building consent is about managing change, not preventing change. There is no question that the historic environment must be protected, but it appears that the process of listing is causing difficulties for London's public bodies.'

by Richard Vaughan

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