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'Three Richards' to review guidance on historic facades

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A Lord Rogers-backed campaign against the retention of poor quality historical facades in place of high quality new architecture has received a major boost.

Campaign activist and architect, Richard Coleman, has been appointed to a key English Heritage panel reviewing planning guideline PPG15 which covers historic buildings and policy on facade retention, which the campaigners say has been flawed.

The campaign has the support of Richard MacCormac as well as Rogers and the team warns that current guidance on the historic environment is holding back new architecture.

'Facades of ordinary old buildings in conservation areas are being retained with modern structures built behind them. This is not good conservation practice, ' Coleman said. He also attacked the practice of demolishing and rebuilding facades, stretching the historic composition to fit modern building dimensions.

The campaigners claim the problem is widespread and they have identified examples of the guideline's negative impact in Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle and Oxford as well as in a number of other major towns and cities including London.

But they claimed that the campaign's representation on the working group indicates the seriousness with which the heritage body is taking the campaign.

One of the key problems with PPG15 is that guidelines are open to wide interpretation, particularly the requirement that developers 'preserve or enhance' the building or site in question.

Andy Cook, a planning officer at London Borough of Southwark, said: 'It says 'preserve or enhance' and some planning authorities think it's much easier to preserve. PPG1 5 has introduced a more rigorous test [on facade preservation] so that buildings in a conservation area are subject to the same tests as if they were listed buildings.'

The 'three Richards' are drafting a document which will set out evidence and rationale for the changes they wish to see.

These are expected to include better guidance on new design for planning authorities and an increased role for CABE in setting standards on work in conservation areas.

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