Plymouth Shows how to Protect Post-war Architecture

 

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Royal Bank of Scotland at St Andrew’s Cross

In a move that would be inconceivable in Coventry, the City of Plymouth has decided to designate its post-war redevelopment area as a Conservation Area.

Plymouth, like Coventry, was badly damaged by bombing during the Second World War and was re-built in the 1950s and 1960s. This followed a plan designed by the famous Town Planner, Patrick Abercrombie. Whilst Plymouth’s redevelopment does not have the grace and beauty of Coventry’s post-war Gibson plan, it is nevertheless valued by local residents, with 59% of people who responded to a consultation agreeing to the Conservation Area designation.

The Plymouth Herald reports that Plymouth’s post-war city centre architecture is set to be protected by a new conservation area. The move approved by the city council’s cabinet would give buildings more protection under planning law. It is also being seen as providing a framework to guide the redevelopment of the area which respects its historic importance.

The city council’s Labour leader Tudor Evans said the proposal was supported by the council’s development partners and would build on work already happening to regenerate parts of the city centre. He told councillors: “What we have got now is a pretty unique collection of post-war buildings.” He added: “This should be seen as another supreme act of regeneration.

“We need to celebrate what has happened in the past, but I think we can use this to kick-start the future again. I think that’s where we see it.”

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Plymouth Council House and Civic Centre

“It is not really about control and regulation, and saying no to stuff, it is really about enabling things to come forward.” the centre of the new area which covers the part of the city centre rebuilt in the 1950s after being mostly flattened by bomb damaged during the Second World War. The city centre was rebuilt after the war as set out in A Plan for Plymouth by architect and town planner Professor Patrick Abercrombie and City Engineer James Paton-Watson. The new status would mean the conservation area could attract funding from bodies like the government conservation agency Historic England.

The area includes listed buildings such as the Royal Bank of Scotland at St Andrew’s Cross, the Theatre Royal, Derry’s Clock Tower, the Bank pub, the Council House and Civic Centre, the former Barclay’s Bank the Unitarian Church and Catherine Street Baptist Church. In an interesting parallel with Coventry, this Church was rebuilt following the bombing of the city and contains a mural by Hans Feibusch.

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Catherine Street Baptist Church, Plymouth

 

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Feibusch mural in Catherine’ Street Baptist Church, Plymouth

Councillors were told 59% of responses during public consultation supported going ahead with the conservation area.

Members of the city council’s ruling cabinet voted to go ahead with the next steps at a meeting on 9th July.

They include council officers creating a Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan. Becky Barrett, Regional Director at Historic England South West, said: “Historic England is delighted that Plymouth’s City Centre has been designated a Conservation Area, having long championed the city’s mid-century heritage as something that is unique and of high quality.

“The rebuilding of the city centre to an entirely new street pattern after the devastation of the 1941 Plymouth Blitz was an unprecedented move in post-war Britain – and that bold architecture survives well and is capable of looking great again!”

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Theatre Royal

“It is part of our national history – just as the City of Bath famously showcases our Georgian heritage and the City of York our medieval past, the City of Plymouth shows English modernism at its best. Conservation Area status will rightly recognise this quality and act as a catalyst for regeneration and investment.”

This dramatic and positive move to protect Plymouth’s post-war design and architecture puts Coventry to shame! All of the comments above could be applied to Coventry, but the City Council has turned its back on the designation of a Conservation Area, even though this is one of the suggestions made before Coventry was designated as a Heritage Action Zone.

It’s time for our civic leaders to follow the example of Plymouth and give our post-war heritage the protection it deserves!

The Coventry Society acknowledges the news report from the Plymouth Herald, which forms the basis of this story.

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