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Government urged to give councils powers to protect heritage

Damien Egan, the Mayor of Lewisham, and 13 national and local amenity societies are urging the government to give councils greater powers to protect local heritage buildings.

They have written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to call for national planning legislation to be amended so that local authorities are fully empowered to protect local heritage buildings and assets of community value from developers seeking to demolish them.

Lewisham is home to over 500 locally listed buildings, ranging from Victorian public houses to traditional shop fronts, dating back as far as the seventeenth century. However, the council’s ability to protect them from developers is limited by national planning legislation.

If a developer owns a building that has local historical significance and wants to demolish it, they do not require full planning permission from the council to do so. They only need to make a ‘prior approval’ application for the method of demolition, which means the council can only consider how a heritage asset is demolished, not whether it should be demolished at all.

Damien Egan, the Mayor of Lewisham, says: ‘From Deptford to Downham, Lewisham has a rich and diverse history and we are very proud of it. However, a loophole in national planning legislation means that local authorities’ ability to protect it from developers who are more interested in making a profit is limited.

‘There have been a number of cases in the borough where we have lost locally significant buildings to developers because they were acting within the law. This is a challenge faced by other local authorities and communities across the country, which is why the Government must give us greater powers to hold developers to account.’

Thomas Barrett
Senior journalist - NewStart Follow him on Twitter

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