A piece of planning law is being revised – to ease the way for more controversial development. PPG15, which protected all historic buildings and heritage sites, is being replaced by PPS15 which does not.
What the new legislation plans to say is that places of archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic merit should be protected – unless the value to this and future generations is outweighed by the wider social economic and environmental benefits including climate change mitigation that will be delivered by the proposed development.
Seems reasonable? Conservationists and environment experts are worried. They feel this new wording offers a ready opening for local authorities and developers to argue that – for instance – a block of flats, a wind-farm, a multi-storey car park will yield more benefit to a community than, say, a grove of trees or a beloved old building. And they will be able to call on PPS15 – and bang goes our heritage.
So what could we lose in Redbridge? Take Wanstead. The Kinema has already come under threat and how long would the Police Station and the old Fire Station in Wanstead Place survive? Conservation Areas like George Green could even be at risk from such a broad interpretation as “the wider social economic and environmental benefits including mitigating climate change.” Wanstead Park could house a wind farm for instance, Valentines Park could accommodate a sizeable estate.
Some of these examples may seem far-fetched now but a look at the list of Redbridge’s listed buildings reveals a number of familiar sites we should feel the poorer for losing – and brings home the cultural carnage which could take place under this planning amendment.