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Twentieth Century Society calls for conservation of post-war estates

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A Milton Keynes housing estate designed by Ralph Erskine in the 1970s should be designated a conservation area, a heritage body has urged

The Twentieth Century Society recommended that the Eaglestone estate be awarded the protected status often reserved for older architecture.

The body also called for Plymouth’s inner city district to be made a conservation area and for a further 50 modern sites to be considered. 

Areas earmarked for further discussion about the potential for conservation area status include public and private housing, university campuses, an aerodrome, a former children’s holiday camp and Coventry city centre. The Twentieth Century Society’s recommendations follow a grant made by Historic England to research the topic.

Gleadless Valley estate in Sheffield, designed by city architect JL Womersley

Gleadless Valley estate in Sheffield, designed by city architect JL Womersley

Source: John East

Gleadless Valley estate in Sheffield, designed by city architect JL Womersley, has been mooted as a possible 20th Century conservation area

More than 8,000 conservation areas, where planning rights are reduced, already exist across England. These are usually declared by local councils.

Twentieth Century Society director Catherine Croft said: ‘Sadly much valuable and interesting post-war development is being demolished or heavily altered, or is coming under threat of major change, with little or no regard to the heritage significance of such developments because they are not viewed as historic.

‘Indeed, 20th century structures, and especially the tall buildings which became popular in the 1960s, are regularly identified as negative features in heritage assessments.’

Plymouth centre was redesigned after heavy bombing during the Second World War. It was designed by renowned 20th century town planner professor Patrick Abercrombie and city engineer James Paton Watson, and was heavily influenced by the Beaux-Arts architectural style.

The Twentieth Century Society said the pedestrian environment at Eaglestone, segregated from traffic, was intended to encourage social exchange while houses were divided into ‘gossip groups’ or clusters around pedestrian paths and open spaces.

Ted Hollamby's flats in the Brandon Estate in Kennington, south London

Ted Hollamby’s flats in the Brandon Estate in Kennington, south London

Source: John East

Ted Hollamby’s flats in the Brandon Estate in Kennington, south London, have been mooted as a potential 20th Century conservation area

Examples of existing 20th century conservation areas include Moderne houses in Abbotshall Avenue in north London; the 1960s redevelopment of Walbottle Village west of Newcastle Upon Tyne; and inter-war housing around School Road, Hall Green, in Birmingham.

The Twentieth Century Society last month called on Coventry City Council to put consented schemes – including Chapman Taylor’s Upper Precinct revamp – on hold while an assessment of the city’s architectural heritage completes.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Gordon  Gibb

    Whilst it is important that good examples are able to be protected, I tend to think that the fact that an estate is "interesting", as suggested by the 20C, is not a good reason for its preservation. Preservation would mean that because of some academic theory, people would have to live in these dreadful environments. Unlike the example shown, a substantial proportion of modernist twentieth century housing estates exhibit components of the very worst elements of modern architecture and the worst attitudes of modern architects and local authorities. The sooner they are gone, and forgotten, the better for the public that they were supposed to serve and the better for the profession whose reputation has been so damaged by their existence.

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