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Victory for Twentieth Century Society as Erskine's Byker is listed

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Ralph Erskine's Byker Estate looks set to win listed status and protection against piecemeal demolition.

The heritage minister Andrew McIntosh last week announced plans to list the 1970s estate, following a campaign for spot listing by the Twentieth Century Society.

The Newcastle estate, widely considered the finest example of Erskine's work, pioneered the involvement of tenants in the design process and had a huge influence on subsequent housing projects. It has received many awards, including a Civic Trust Award, the Eternit Award, the Ambrose Congreve Award for housing in 1980 and the Veronica Rudge Green Prize for urban design from Harvard University.

Director of the Twentieth Century Society Catherine Croft welcomed the proposal for Grade II-listed status, which is now out to consultation.

But she added that action should have been taken 'a long time ago'.

'This is good news, especially since we felt the government had lost interest in the more difficult aspects of post-war listings. We felt it was shying away from public housing. So we are pleased that it followed the recommendation in this case.

'Byker was enormously pioneering at the time.

It has a huge range of apartments for a huge range of families. The whole ensemble is important - the perimeter wall section in conjunction with the low rise.'

The Twentieth Century Society has been campaigning for a spot listing to thwart plans to demolish a number of blocks on the estate. Two of those blocks have already been taken down, but the third, Bolam Coyne - considered key to the overall composition - will now be preserved.

'The Twentieth Century Society wouldn't say there was no scope for improvement, ' Croft said, 'but what should happen should be done within the spirit of what the original architect was trying to do.'

Elain Harwood, inspector of historic buildings at English Heritage, which put forward the recommendation, said the estate created a strong sense of place. 'Erskine designed a whole integrated environment - it is incredibly beautiful, ' she said.

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