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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Civic Amenities Act 1967 (Part 1) and the Preservation of Historic Buildings.
by John Ashdown.

The Civic Amenities Act resulting from a private member's Bill introduced by Duncan Sandys received the Royal Assent last July. The main provisions of Part 1 of the act revise and strengthen the existing powers under the Town and Country Planning Act 1962 for ensuring the preservation of statutory listed historic buildings.

Firstly, the period of notice required to be given to the Planning Authority before a statutory listed building (Grade I and II) may be altered, extended or demolished, is increased from two to six months. This will be of assistance to local societies who wish to draw up reasoned objection to demolition proposals and allows more time for public opinion to express itself. Secondly, the penalties for failing to give notice of intention to alter or demolish and for contraventions of building preservation orders, are increased from 100 to 250 or maximum of imprisonment for three months in a Magistrates Court. In a higher court the fine is unlimited and may take into account any redevelopment value of the land involved or impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding twelve months. Stronger provisions concerning the deliberate damage of a listed building are also included.

Further provisions make it possible for the local authority to make an instant building preservation order with immediate effect, lasting for six months without prior confirmation by the Minister, and also give the local authority power to carry out works which are urgently needed to preserve an unoccupied listed building. Compulsory acquisition and management and disposal powers in regard to listed or other buildings covered by building preservation orders are (with the Minister's approval) extended. A useful clarification made by the Act is that parsonages and the like are not ecclesiastical buildings within the meaning of the 1962 Act and may therefore be made the subject of building preservation orders.

All the above comments apply to single buildings or terraces but a major contribution of the new Act is the requirement that all local authorities should designate Conservation Areas, that is, areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance. Once an area is designated, the local authority under its normal town planning powers, will require to pay special attention to such character and appearance and support this policy by using its powers to make building preservation orders and historic buildings grants [Local Authorities (Historic Building) Act 1962]. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government has stated that conservation areas will be numerous and will be found in almost every town and in many villages. The Act also requires the publication of a notice in a local newspaper of any planning application which the local authority considers affects the nature of the conservation area and a copy of the application must be available for twenty-one days at reasonable hours for public inspection. The application must not be determined before this period expires and the authority must take into account any representations made by members of the public when coming to a decision.

A further help to local societies is the requirement that the Minister (at the National Monuments Record, Fielden House, Great College St, London, SW1) and local authorities who have deposited copies of the lists of buildings of architectural or historic interest are required to keep these available for public inspection at reasonable hours.

For full details of the Act you are referred to the Civic Amenities Act 1967 (HMSO 2 shillings and 3 pence) and Ministry of Housing and Local Government Circular 53/67 (HMSO 1 shilling and 6 pence) which contains a memorandum on Conservation Areas.

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