Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) Bill

Part of Ways and Means – in the House of Commons on 25th May 1943.

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Photo of Mr Ian Hannah Mr Ian Hannah , Wolverhampton Bilston

It is a great pleasure to support my hon. Friend and neighbour in the representation of a Black Country constituency, who incidentally bears what is perhaps the most honoured of all names in English archaeology. It is rather more the spirit than the letter in this case which I should like to support. It is extremely important that such a list should be made. I am not perfectly certain that the local authority is always the best body to make it. I have lively recollections of the Royal Burgh of Edinburgh having torn down some of the most important archeological and historical buildings in that city for no good reason at all. I am still extremely sore about my defeat over Taylors' Hall.

I do not think there is so much difficulty about churches and castles—buildings of obvious importance that go back for centuries. About cottages there is far more difficulty. Some of the ancient cottages to which my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey) referred to are damp and difficult to bring up to modern standards. I think it can generally be done if there is an honest desire. It must be done. Some of our by-laws about old cottages are obviously out of date and absurd. My attention was drawn in Cambridge a few years ago to the fact that one of the finest chambers in that University, the famous Long Gallery at St. John's College, which forms the Combination Room, could be destroyed under our ridiculous laws as not being sanitary because the distance between the oak floor and the moulded plaster ceiling is not sufficient! It is perfectly ridiculous to condemn old buildings simply because the height of their rooms is not according to modern ideas, but cottages to be lived in must be made sanitary. I want very strongly indeed to support the spirit of this Amendment. We do want a far better arrangement to preserve ancient buildings than we have.

I am not so awfully certain that the bouquets handed to France are entirely deserved. In the city of Caen they shaved off the chancel of a medieval church for a road improvement in a way that seemed to me to be extraordinarily unnecessary. We are not by any means good at preserving our own buildings. This war has, unfortunately, destroyed a great many, and that seems to me to make it more urgently necessary than it would be otherwise that every old building we have should be preserved.

Personally, I would rather these lists were made by His Majesty's Inspectors of Ancient Monuments, in whom I have the very utmost confidence, than by the local authorities. But the really important thing is that the lists should be made, and that we should not merely rely on the inventories of really important buildings, that county by county are now being compiled by the Office of Works. We desire lists of small buildings—it may be that they do not go further back than the Regency—which really have architectural interest of such a character that the country would be very definitely poorer by their destruction.