Loyd Grossman on heritage activism – is it a force for good?

Heritage Alliance chairman Loyd Grossman presents his view on how heritage activism has become a force to be reckoned with, in an exclusive archiboo talk for the London Festival of Architecture 2014.

Britain has a remarkably open planning system with a strong culture of consultation, yet public opinion on what should be retained no longer rests with the experts. Thanks in part to social media; participation in urban renewal has refreshed outdated heritage values.

But in this new world where organisations are incapable of operating at the pace and tempo of Twitter, activists also have the power to derail major planning applications

Recent examples of heritage activism in practice include the Southbank Centre’s £120m redevelopment plan. After a well-orchestrated campaign, the plan was thrown into disarray when Boris Johnson declared that part of the complex used by skateboarders, should be left unchanged. A similar fate awaited the Geffrye Museum whose extension plans required the demolition of an unlisted pub – the scheme was rejected after a vigorous local campaign.

Anyone involved in major planning decisions or development proposals – from local authorities to architects–need to take account of potential resistance from vociferous, media-savvy local groups and network.

Similarly for The Heritage Alliance, the voice of the independent heritage groups in England, these high- profile cases demonstrate huge interest in heritage but how to absorb the energy of these heritage activists is a challenge for the Alliance and many of its member organisations.

Archiboo’s mission is to help architects become more creative in how they run and grow their practices. Breakfast talks are by developers, clients, designers, journalists- anyone in fact who can inspire architects with new ideas and new ways of doing business.

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