Watchdog blasts listing idea

English Heritage has attacked moves to delegate the protection of large swathes of the historic environment to local authorities.

The conservation watchdog, in its response to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's (DCMS) consultation on the historic environment, says it is opposed to the government's proposal to move grade II buildings onto local lists.

Under the government's proposals (Planning, 25 July p4), English Heritage will take over responsibility for listing from the DCMS, but some local decisions will be transferred to councils. The watchdog argues: "We believe a plethora of local interpretations has the potential to create the sort of confusion that owners and developers fear."

SAVE Britain's Heritage, in its submission, says the proposal to delegate listing powers is "most frightening and should be dismissed immediately".

The heritage campaign's submission also states that placing grade II listed buildings onto local lists would undermine the protection of the historic environment and deny "whole swathes of buildings the right to state subsidy". SAVE also criticises proposals in the paper to cap the number of listed buildings and create two classes of conservation area.

The British Property Federation has told the DCMS that it accepts proposals to give English Heritage statutory responsibility for maintaining the list on the condition that an independent committee is established to assist the quango in making designation decisions.

It also says that the grounds on which applicants can appeal against the watchdog's decisions - another issue flagged up in the consultation - should be widened beyond procedural issues.

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