04 July 2007

Civic Centre

Old postcard view of St Andrew's Church, St Andrew's Cross and Plymouth's municipal offices. This card is dated '24 July 1913' on the reverse.

Posted by Richard and Gill on Flickr More similar photos here

The imposing structure on the right with the dramatic looking tower is the old municpal offices. The fore runner of the Civic Centre. If this building was still standing you could understand people wanting to keep it. Not many people in Plymouth feel the same about the Civic centre!

The Evening Herld this week has interviewed members of the group which called for ths listing.

The Twentieth Century Society has been revealed as the organisation which asked English Heritage to protect the crumbling 14-storey building in Armada Way from demolition.Jon Wright, a caseworker for the society, said they were "very pleased" it had been given Grade II-listed status.The Twentieth Century Society is a charity that advises English Heritage.

"It's not really our job to answer questions about the economics of these places," said Mr Wright, who is originally from Exeter. "That these buildings get preserved for future generations is as far as our remit goes

"I understand that these issues raise hackles at the local level, but we can't
go looking to make friends."

Repairing the crumbling roof alone could cost as much as £1million, according to the council, but Mr Wright was unsympathetic."They'll just have to fix the roof, whether it costs £1 million or not," he said.

If these comments are reported correctly then the group is not being very helpful to its cause at all. This is just going to make peole even more angry than they are now. The tax payers of Plymouth will have every right to be angry that a faceless undemocratic group which few people have heard of, and seems to have made little, if any attempt to gather local opinion, has succeeded in this way. English Heritage itself can rightly come into criticism as another undemocratic body which does not seem to have made any effort to get the support of local people. When councils are under increasing financial strain it does seem odd that Plymouth is being told to spend money on a building that is not fit for purpose, is unloved by most of the people of Plymouth, and is in poor condition. Plymouth has lost many other fine buildings before which could have been saved - but werent. Greenbank Hospital, Longfield House (a fine old prison / court building) are but two which have been allowed to be taken down. Quite a few old church building too have been pulled down without much fanfare. Where were English Heritage then?

I can understand why some people want to save the building. I am all for preserving some buildings from the past if they can be kept in useful employment. With a bit of imagination most buildings, if they have been well built, can be. The Civic Centre does not seem to fall into this category.

There has been a big public swing behind building restoration over the past few years with a BBC TV programme seeing millions of people vote for local projects. This has been the key to getting old buildings saved. If you get the public behind you then it really does make all the difference. Sadly English Heritage and The Twentieth Century Society seem to have succeeded in getting the exact opposite.

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