Listed buildings & green issues: what are your thoughts?
(This isn’t strictly a recycling issue but I was thinking about it the other day and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter!)
A few miles down the road from me is a village called Saltaire.
It is a Victorian model village founded by a local mill owner (Sir Titus Salt) so his employees had somewhere nice to live compared to the slums around mills in the rest of Bradford. It’s still a nice place to live – rows upon rows of well built Yorkshire-stone houses, with a lovely park, a very pretty church, lots of independent shops and the old mill, which is now home to an art gallery, restaurants & cafés, and more specialist shops. The whole area has survived the last 160 years in a remarkable complete state and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, which means that the government has a duty to protect the site from future development.
Without the World Heritage Site protection (and the listed status all the individual buildings around the village as well), various parts of the village would probably have been redeveloped or demolished in the name of progress – for example, there is a traffic crunch point just near the village and various people are crying out for a bypass or a tunnel underneath the whole area. With regards to that sort of thing – and to preserve our cultural history, I’m all in support of having listed buildings and the Heritage Site protection but…
I was passing through the village the other day and I noticed that most of the houses & shops still have old, single glazed windows. A lot of the windows have pretty curved tops – like in the picture – so I imagine they’d be expensive to replace anyway, before getting into issues of whether or not it’s allowed. (There are some houses in a less picturesque part of the city which have clearly just had rectangular windows placed en masse behind the arched stone window – but that does look bodgy and would definitely not be allowed in Saltaire.) A few houses seemed to have secondary glazing inside which helps a bit but I imagine the rest are losing a fair bit of heat through the single glazed windows and are probably draughty too. Similarly, a lot of the smaller terrace houses don’t have a hallway – their front doors open straight into their living rooms – and from living in a house like that for ten years, I can tell you for sure that it can be a draughty heat-sink even when you don’t actually open and close the door.
Many of the houses in Saltaire face east-west so they wouldn’t be optimal for solar panels anyway but even if they had south-facing roofs, I’m guessing that wouldn’t be allowed — any listed building is likely to require “listed building consent” before solar panels can be installed and it’s often refused if it’s felt the panels would “detract from the appearance and character” of the building or area or “disturb or destroy the historical fabric”. The situation would be similar for micro wind turbines or biomass flues etc.
Of course, these issues aren’t specific to this village – there are over 370,000 listed buildings in England alone – but passing through Saltaire got me thinking and I wondered what you thought about it. While most of us want to do so to stop wasting energy & money, a lot of people with listed houses can’t do the same.
Do you think the properties that represent our past should be protected above all else? Or should there be a focus on energy-awareness for the present & the future instead?
Do you live in a listed building? Have you had any problems making it more energy efficient? Or conversely, is it easier than it seems like it’ll be?
(Photo from Wikipedia)