The damage that we do to ourselves and the environment by continuing on the throw away, everything is disposable track, whether cheap, one wear fashion or needlessly demolishing existing buildings is at last coming into focus.
NLA's Conservation award
is therefore bang on the money in terms of being timely and relevant to the important change of direction away for thoughtless waste towards sensible and sensitive preservation of our built environment.
The apparently clean sheet of paper provided by a cleared site often encourages designers and developers to reach for the demolition contractor rather than the thinking cap.
Developers and landowners should be encouraged to reverse that approach by thinking long and hard first about reuse and conservation and last about destruction.
The opportunity to build bigger if the site is cleared does provide a temptation to close the eye and the mind to conservation. Unfortunately site values, inflated by the potential to build bigger are often the enemy to sensible reuse. However the development equation may look different when the damage to society and the environment are factored in.
The case for intelligent conservation and repurposing of existing structures should be considered alongside every planning application that involves the demolition or major alteration to an existing structure. The case should be promoted and debated by a team independent from the applicant.
The skills required to recognise the potential and to imagine the outcome and then to manage the process of conservation need to be encouraged with equal importance to those of cleared site construction.
Our towns and cities must be allowed to provide for the changing needs of society, but the value of the connection to our heritage as given by conservation of those parts of our inherited structures that we all experience, should be respected.
Grand examples include Liverpool and St Pancras Stations where world class conservation has been merged with hugely successful commercial reuse.
On an individually smaller scale the saving of over 400 houses in the Welsh Streets in Liverpool.
These houses (including one where Ringo Starr was brought up) were to be demolished and replaced with characterless blocks, instead they have been conserved and transformed into high quality and highly desirable homes.