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Listed Buildings

Volume 469: debated on Monday 10 December 2007

Buildings are listed on the basis of their special architectural and historic interest. Those criteria, together with the general principles of selection, are set out in planning policy guidance note 15.

What is the Minister’s view on the process between applying for listed status and the granting or declining of that status?

We have been consulting on the whole process for a couple of years in the heritage protection review, and we intend to produce a draft Bill for consideration by the House next spring. It will propose opening up and expanding consultation, combining the various schemes in a single system so that there are no longer separate schedule and listing schemes, and the passing down of responsibilities to English Heritage.

I should also be interested in opening a debate on the listing of newer 20th-century buildings, especially those built in the last 75 years or so. We could consider criteria relating to, for instance, whether a building is still fit for purpose, the cost of maintaining it, and the context in which we determine whether to list it, namely the existence or otherwise of buildings of the same kind around the country.

May I draw the Minister’s attention to the magnificent Midland hotel in Morecambe, a listed building which has benefited from £4 million of Government funding and has been restored? May I invite her to visit Morecambe and view the project, and also to view another building—the Winter Gardens—which is in need of Government help?

My hon. Friend has spoken to me a great deal about both buildings. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State intends to go and see the renovation of the hotel in the spring. I hope that her local authority, or others with an interest in the theatre about which she is concerned, will consider whether our new fund of £15 million a year for three years to help coastal resorts in particular could be used to support its renovation and rehabilitation.

Is the Minister satisfied that listed building controls and protections work satisfactorily in relation to the insides as well as the facades of buildings?

If the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about that issue, I think we should discuss it in the context of the draft Bill that we are presenting next year. Members throughout the House have raised many listing issues with me on which—as we have the slot for the draft Bill, and legislation to follow it—we ought to have a serious discussion, hopefully non-partisan, with the aim of improving the system.

I am concerned about a building in my constituency, the Mechanics Institute, which contains the first workers’ library, built for the railway workers in Swindon. It is listed under the criteria that the Minister has announced, but is in danger of falling down through neglect. What powers has the Minister to step in when buildings are in such a state?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her work to ensure that the institute—part of a tentative world heritage site—is properly looked after and preserved. Once a building is listed, it falls to the local authorities in the area to ensure that the heritage is protected. In this case, there have been three planning applications, all of which have been rejected. English Heritage and the local authority are anxious to engage in discussions with a private developer to secure the long-term future of this fine grade II* listed building.