English Heritage provides advice to the Secretary of State on listing applications once they have consulted owners and local planning authorities and completed a full assessment of the building. English Heritage provided their advice on the listing of the civic centre in Plymouth to the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) on 12 June 2007.
Between receipt by English Heritage of the application to list the building in April 2006 and the decision to list being taken in June 2007, the Department received two representations objecting to the possible listing. These representations were made by my hon. Friends the Members for Plymouth, Sutton (Linda Gilroy) and for Plymouth, Devonport (Alison Seabeck). The then Minister for Culture, my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (David Lammy) was advised that objections to the possible listing had been received, but that the application to list was with English Heritage pending the completion of an adviser’s report.
All relevant evidence is taken into account in determining listing applications. For evidence to be relevant it must relate to the statutory criteria of special architectural or historic interest set out in planning policy guidance note 15. These are the only factors that the Secretary of State may take into account in making listing decisions. State of repair, cost of maintenance and unsuitability for modern needs are matters which are not relevant to the assessment of a building’s qualifications for listing—but they are all things which can be taken into account by the planning authority in considering any application to demolish or alter a listed building.
English Heritage administers the listing system on behalf of the Secretary of State, but it is the Secretary of State who decides whether a building should be added to the statutory list. The decision to list the civic centre in Plymouth was made on 21 June 2007.
Government funding for the historic environment in England is channelled through English Heritage. Grants are available for structural repairs to listed buildings that English Heritage considers to be of outstanding historical or architectural interest. Grants are usually restricted to buildings listed Grade I or Grade II*—rather than Grade II listed—but all applications are dealt with on their individual merits. There are a number of charitable trusts that make grants towards the preservation and upkeep of historic buildings. In addition, the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) has powers to provide financial assistance towards the repair and maintenance of buildings of importance to the national heritage, through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Decisions on applications are made by the NHMF trustees, who seek advice from English Heritage and other professional bodies.