English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley urged the pathfinders working on revamping housing markets in these areas to show caution and carry out a "proper comprehensive analysis of the benefits of keeping what is already there". The problems facing low-demand areas are more to do with antisocial behaviour than poor-quality housing, he insisted.
"We do not believe that the automatic answer is demolition. There are some areas where demolition and clearance are necessary, but there are lots of areas where these homes contribute to the environment, add to people's lives and encapsulate the history of the area.
"We should move away from the idea that the problem is the housing rather than the people. To say that terraced housing causes problems is, to put a technical term on it, bollocks," he added. "Fulham, Chelsea or Bath have plenty of terraced housing and are not dysfunctional. It is a small number of families making life a misery for everyone else. Let's not confuse the architecture with what the real problem is."
Thurley denied that the watchdog has fallen out with the ODPM or the pathfinders, adding that he is merely calling for a "conservation-led approach".
"What are we doing crunching up perfectly serviceable houses that have stood for 150 years and are capable of being there for another 150 years? It is true that some 19th century houses are less well built than others, but look at the quality of the material used in them. They are infinitely superior to anything in replacement homes."
Thurley's remarks came as the watchdog unveiled reforms to the listings system. He called on developers to involve English Heritage early in their plans. "We want to be in pre-application discussions," he added.
- See feature, page 17.