Could creating a Grade III listing be the answer?
Structural engineers, architects and other property industry professionals are fast backing the calls for a new Grade III listing – and it makes complete sense.
Every year, according to structural engineer Will Arnold, who first suggested the idea, we lose some 50,000 buildings to needless destruction.
Their destruction creates massive waste and causes a huge release of carbon into the atmosphere – and then, of course, whatever replaces them has further impact on the plant.
Will’s suggestion is that the Town and Country Planning Act, first introduced in 1947, should be amended so that every building in the country automatically becomes Grade III listed.
This would mean a building could only be demolished if it was structurally unsafe or given special dispensation by the local planning authority.
This idea, which aims to prevent perfectly good buildings from being removed to allow another to be built in its place, is already gaining traction, with big names, including Channel 4’s Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud voicing his support.
And, of course, the ongoing wrangling over the possible demolition of the Marks and Spencer building in Oxford Street to make way for a new flagship store has been cited as an example.
Will writes: “To avoid overburdening SMEs, its initial introduction may only apply to major properties (for example those with a net internal area of more than 1,000 sq m) and would still allow us to alter layouts, strengthen foundations, add new floors and upgrade façades.
“Such alterations are, of course, vital if we want to keep doing the most social good for our country.”
And he continues: “With the introduction of Grade III, development across the UK would change overnight. Re-using what exists already would become the norm.
“It would suspend the debate around whether to lower taxes on refurbishments, the need to campaign to try and raise awareness of the environmental costs of demolition.”
The idea is not to hinder property development and new homebuilding.
We have such a dire situation in this country that we will still need to build new homes and develop unused sites.
It’s just that by bringing in this new Historic England listing we would use the buildings we already have, wherever possible, thereby protecting our cultural heritage and our planet at the same time.
This way, we can make huge inroads into reducing construction’s huge carbon footprint and move towards a much greener property industry as a whole.