Alan Clawley writes about the re-constituted Conservation and Heritage Panel.
The first scheduled meeting of the re-constituted Conservation and Heritage Panel was cancelled because there were no applications for it to consider.
This is not surprising, as the Panel has been told it can only see applications for Listed Planning Consent for Grade I and Grade II* listed buildings. Only 1.3% of the 2,000 or so listed buildings in the city are Grade I and 4.7% are Grade II*.
Major changes to Grade I buildings are likely to be rare, and applications for their demolition are normally unthinkable. So there will be little Grade I work for the Panel to do even if an application came in for the likes of Aston Hall, the Town Hall, Victoria Law Courts, Curzon Street Station or the eight parish churches on the list. There is more likelihood of applications from the 70 or so Grade II* listed buildings such as the Gun Barrel Proof House, 8 Bennetts Hill, or Blakesley Hall.
The panel has to consider proposed alterations affecting the historical character of the buildings before the Planning Committee decide whether to approve an application. Even Grade II buildings are required to apply for Listed Building Consent to demolish or seriously alter the building.
The Central Library would have been a Grade II if it had been listed, but the Council fought tooth-and-nail to stop this because they knew it would make the demolition of the building virtually impossible.
Some well-known buildings that are already listed Grade II are Moseley Road Baths, the former School of Art on Moseley Road, the Rotunda, and Digbeth Cold Store/Ice factory.
I asked the Planning Department why, if all buildings needed permission, only applications concerning the top 6% go to the Conservation and Heritage Panel before going to the Planning Committee. Waheed Nazir, Director of Planning and Regeneration, replied (26 February 2013) that he aimed to have a response to my enquiry by 7 March ‘at the latest’.
I am still waiting for Mr Waheed’s reply to find out why the terms of reference of the Panel are so limited. In the absence of such an explanation and in the light of the City Council’s appalling record on conservation, we can only draw our own conclusions.