HC Deb 16 December 1996 vol 287 cc608-9
12. Sir Sydney Chapman

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage how many buildings in England are listed; and if she will make a statement. [7604]

Mr. Sproat

We estimate that there are about 500,000 listed buildings in England.

Sir Sydney Chapman

I recognise that various factors are involved in any assessment of which buildings should be listed as being of architectural importance and that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Sir I. Patnick) said, because some modern buildings have been included, there must be an element of subjective judgment. I regret that no buildings designed by me have yet been listed. Does my hon. Friend accept that, now that we have half a million listed buildings in England, the Government's policy should be centred on conserving those buildings? Does he further agree that spot listing should not be encouraged and that there should be a moratorium before there is any further review of which buildings should be listed?

Mr. Sproat

My hon. Friend is entirely right, in that many people feel that the number of listed buildings has increased dramatically—perhaps excessively—over the past few years. The Government have encouraged English Heritage to consider certain themes—in addition to the geographical location of the buildings—such as old railways, old shops, schools and, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Sir I. Patnick), certain buildings displaying innovative architectural techniques that ought to be considered.

None the less, I am sure that we have not yet got entirely right the proper considerations for listing buildings. My Department recently published a Green Paper, and there have been consultations on it; we shall take fully into account my hon. Friend's valid points.

Mr. Corbyn

As the Minister is discussing listed buildings, may I draw his attention to two London buildings, Battersea power station and county hall, which require some urgent action by him? He should act to prevent Battersea power station from falling down and ensure that it is put to appropriate use given the state in which it was left by the last speculators. Will he also save county hall from the ravages of multinational hotel prospectors?

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Gentleman has alluded to two extremely important buildings. I share his concern that they should not be allowed to deteriorate, and he will be glad to hear that they are not deteriorating. Representatives of English Heritage visit Battersea power station every few weeks, but I cannot recall exactly the frequency of visits paid to the old Greater London council building. They are making absolutely certain, however, that those buildings are in a decent condition.