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Minister rejects Southbank listing and grants immunity

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Architecture minister John Penrose has gone against English Heritage’s advice and turned down the latest bid to list London’s Brutalist Southbank Centre

In a move which the Twentieth Century Society described as ‘bitterly disappointing’, the minister has also granted a certificate of immunity from future listing attempts, paving the way for a potentially significant overhaul of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery complex.

English Heritage made the latest bid to list the concrete art complex and follows an application for immunity made by the Southbank Centre earlier this year. Penrose had previously rejected listing the ensemble of cultural buildings south of the Thames in late 2010.

The owners of the centre, which was built by the LCC’s and GLC’s Architect’s Department between 1963 and 68, have already applied for £20 million towards a major refurbishment and renewal of the buildings and put out a tender for a design team last month.

A spokeswoman for the Twentieth Century Society said: ‘Despite a rigorous recommendation by English Heritage, central government has again gone against their advice and refused to grant listed status to this important brutalist complex.

We’d be concerned about major permanent massive extensions

She added: ‘We have been in on-going consultation with the owners regarding future ambitions for the site and totally support their desire for an ever-changing range of innovative and temporary pop structures that encourage people to explore the buildings. However we would be concerned about major permanent massive extensions.

She concluded: ‘This is the fourth time the complex has been rejected for listing. The international importance of the South Bank Centre has been recognised by the World Monuments Fund who added the complex to their 2012 “Watchlist” of endangered brutalist buildings in October last year.’

A DCMS spokesman said: ‘It was a pretty routine case where the decision was taken on the basis of ‘no new evidence’ since it was turned down for listing last time round.’


Postscript: A comment from the Southbank Centre

We applied for a Certificate of Immunity from Listing because the centre is determined to safeguard the Hayward Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Hall complex and to keep the buildings fully functional for the future. It would be significantly more difficult to plan the future of these buildings with an ongoing listing application, which can take many months or even years to process. We need to be clear about the parameter under which we are going to refurbish the buildings. No major refurbishment could be undertaken without clarity of parameters under which it is done.


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