World Heritage Site protection?

An article by David Hencke in the Guardian today (thank you, M, for pointing this out) has revealed that Tessa Jowell is to announce “buffer zones” around World Heritage sites which will prevent “unsightly” skyscrapers and dodgy home improvements such as stone-cladding or satellite dishes.

This is certainly an interesting development. I suspect it was brought in to save the Government the embarrassment of having the Tower of London put on the “World Heritage Sites in Danger” blacklist – something that would be a first in the developed world – but it will apply to all World Heritage Sites – including Greenwich.

It will apparently give more power to public inquiries to block insensitive developments, which is not going to please a certain South Bank incumbent, one Ken Livingstone.

Ken’s just been given extra powers to force local authorities to build high-rise blocks – even against their own wishes – and let’s face it, he has never been afraid to step into any kind of brawl.

I expect to see these two rhinos lock horns very soon. I fear that unless the White Paper is written very carefully, it will be full of loopholes. Two immediate contenders spring to mind.

One would be the possiblility of building “sightly” skyscrapers – buildings that have putative architectural “merit.” The other – far more likely to be exploited – would be to build the unsightly skyscrapers just outside the buffer zone. What I want to know is how big this buffer zone is going to be – Would Lovell’s Wharf be far enough away not to count? The Old Hospital site? Is it ultimately just going to mean that anyone who doesn’t come into the immediate area of outstanding heritage just gets blighted with even worse and more dense development than we might otherwise have expected?

Let’s watch this one…,,2026582,00.html

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