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Plymouth preservationists fight council museum plans

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Campaigners are waging war on Plymouth city council over a 1963 cafe they want spot-listed to stop it being demolished to make way for a museum.

The cafe, by Anglo-French practice Gladstone and Ballistics, is empty and stands in the city's Elizabethan area, the Barbican. The slate-hung, flat-roofed block overlooks a harbour where the pilgrims boarded the Mayflower to set sail for America. However, in the next two weeks the council is submitting a planning application for a £1.8-million, three-storey museum and visitor centre with glass front, street canopy and covered roof terrace. The 500m2 block will have classrooms and translucent glass panes which clear at the flick of a button to give views across the water. Building work is due to start early next year for a 2001 finish.

But the design by council architects has been dubbed the 'house of horrors' by local campaigning group, the Barbican Tenants Association. Secretary Kevin Kelway said: 'The cafe is a unique flat style and shape, and very much part of the townscape which is made up of varying styles of architecture. This museum will destroy the historic quarter.'

In a letter to culture secretary Chris Smith, he said: 'The council says it is architecturally poor. They also said that about Tinside pool on Plymouth's decaying foreshore last year but you ignored their advice and listed England's first Art Deco lido for the nation.' The dcms has passed the letter on to English Heritage. Its inspectors are to look at the building in two weeks and report back to the dcms. Kelway also hopes to enlist the support of the Twentieth Century Society and save Britain's Heritage.

But Russell Davidson, the council's chief architect, called the building an eyesore. 'There is no chance of it being listed. It is very utilitarian and never did fit in. Mind you, our design won't fit in.'

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