Wind farm ‘threat’ to our finest views: English Heritage chief says his ‘biggest challenge’ is to stop eyesores destroying Britain’s cultural heritage
Wind farms and flyovers which block some of the country’s most glorious views are one of the biggest threats to Britain’s cultural heritage, the chief executive of English Heritage has said.
Simon Thurley said his ‘biggest challenge’ was to find ways to stop the erection of wind farms and other eyesores from obscuring historic buildings and monuments.
He said: ‘My focus, and the focus of English Heritage, is to design ways we can judge the effect, of wind farms for instance, and other structures, that have an effect on the aesthetics of buildings.
‘That is the biggest challenge we have today.’
Dr Thurley said the legislation that exists to protect monuments and historical buildings was ‘too old’.
Changes were needed to laws so that the views of listed buildings were protected as well as the buildings themselves, he told the audience at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
‘William Morris believed legislation should protect the physicality of buildings, but quite often it isn’t the physicality you are trying to protect,’ he said.
Dr Thurley gave the example of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, where he said English Heritage was fighting plans to build a flyover that would block views of the historic cathedral ‘rising from the Fens’.
‘The heritage legislation we have today was not designed to protect the views of Ely Cathedral,’ he said. ‘It was designed to stop (people) bashing it down.’Dr Thurley said his other big challenge was getting 1970s concrete buildings listed.
‘We have to work out which ones are worth saving because there’s a lot of junk,’ he said.
He added for years government ministers had refused to allow them to be listed and viewed them as ‘monstrosities’ – particularly Margaret Hodge, who when she was Culture Minister, ‘refused to list any concrete buildings at all’.
But the current minister Ed Vaizey was far more obliging, he said, and had most recently agreed to the listing of the ‘concrete megastructure’ of Preston bus station.
Dr Thurley also revealed that more than 400 buildings currently owned and run by English Heritage were going to be transferred to a charity.
He said: ‘Like all (government) departments we have been absolutely hammered with cuts recently and it’s been very hard for us.
‘I think the best future for them (the sites) is in a charity.’
But he said the sites would go under the protection of a new charity and would not be handed to the National Trust because ‘we need competition’.
‘The two organisations (English Heritage and the National Trust) have a very, very different approach,’ he said, adding it was ‘healthier’ that way.
Dr Thurley has been chief executive of English Heritage since 2002, and was dubbed the ‘boy wonder’ for being given the role at the age of 39.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding