HC Deb 12 December 1994 vol 251 cc598-9
5. Mrs. Gorman

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage how many representations he has received about the criteria on which buildings are listed.

Mr. Dorrell

Very few; the listing criteria were fully restated in the recent planning policy guidance note No. 15, which was the subject of wide public consultation last year.

Mrs. Gorman

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. Is he aware of the number of farmers who have listed barns that they are not allowed to convert for housing or light industrial use, and who are confronted with the dilemma of maintaining a building that is extremely expensive to maintain to the standards of English Heritage and other organisations and being forced to foot the bill? Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the criteria in the light of the dilemma faced by farmers, many of whom are in my constituency?

Mr. Dorrell

My hon. Friend is right to point out the importance of ensuring that in the enforcement of the listing regulations— [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. Has the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) anything to raise? If he has, I will deal with it in a point of order after questions. The question was in perfect order.

Mr. Dorrell

My hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) is right to emphasise the importance of ensuring that the listing system is applied in such a way as to ensure that, while we respect the ancient buildings that are listed, the enforcement mechanism is sufficiently flexible to allow those buildings to be put to modern, effective use. That principle is made clear in the policy guidance to which I referred.

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) cannot go around cladding her Tudor house and hoping to get away with it? Will he also bear in mind that, in terms of listing, a number of modern buildings in London need to be listed and protected? Will he make it clear that any change in the listing of that wonderful art deco building, the Hoover building on the Great West road, will be resisted?

Mr. Dorrell

We shall continue to operate the listing system in such a way as to ensure that proper respect and attention is paid to buildings of architectural importance. We shall also ensure, however, that once a building is listed it is not preserved in aspic but that the listing system is applied sufficiently flexibly to allow the building to be put to economic use in the modern world.

Mr. Steen

Listing commercial buildings without regard to economic consequences is a form of sequestration by the state without compensation. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the value of Castro] house in Marylebone road has plummeted since it was listed by the Department of National Heritage? The building is out of date and has reached the end of its life, but modern facilities cannot be put in, it cannot be Jet, it cannot be sold and it cannot be pulled down.

Mr. Dorrell

My hon. Friend is right that the listing of a building has economic consequences. It is important, therefore, to ensure that the system which lies behind the initial decision to list is sufficiently flexible to allow the heritage and economic questions to be held in the balance, and a proper and balanced judgment reached. That does not always mean preserving the building exactly as it is, but it certainly does mean respecting ancient buildings which are determined, according to the listing criteria, as being of national importance.