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Architects' expertise needed in shake-up of listings system

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A revitalised listings system should give a greater advisory role to architects and introduce a new category for temporary buildings such as the Serpentine's summer pavilions, it was argued this week.

The chairman of Docomomo UK, Dennis Sharp, will be feeding the recommendations into the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's (DCMS) consultation on its listings review, proposals for which were revealed last Thursday.

Sharp will be calling for the introduction of a mechanism to deal with 'unique structures' such as the Serpentine pavilions by Oscar Niemeyer, Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid and Toyo Ito and Expo pavilions such as Nicholas Grimshaw's for Seville in 1992. And he is pushing for the management of listed buildings to be taken from planning officers and given to qualified architects, possibly within a separate council department. Planning departments 'lack the architectural expertise' needed in conservation, particularly in the area of modern buildings, about which there is 'appalling ignorance', he said.

Sharp will also be pressing for 'termination' - the minimum age at which a building can be listed - to be reduced from 30 years to 23.

The DCMS launched its consultation paper, 'Protecting the Historic Environment: Making the System Work Better', last Thursday.

As predicted by the AJ, the root-and-branch review includes proposals to increase the power of English Heritage to allocate, rather than simply recommend, listings; introduce a single list for all types of protected buildings; establish a right of appeal; and make the system more transparent (AJ 17.7.03).

Tony Burton, director of policy and strategy at the National Trust, said he was concerned that the proposals would demand 'a level of resources we may not get'. The reforms must be proved to work, Burton said. 'We mustn't give up on the present system too soon.'

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