Monday, July 20, 2009

Planning laws leave war memorials at risk

Hundreds of war memorials are at risk of being lost or damaged because planning laws fail to cover their preservation, according to a report published today. Military memorials are also under threat from thieves who sell them for use as garden sculptures.

The report from the London Assembly calls for a full register of memorials in the capital to be developed over the next two years and for changes to the planning laws. It says that a system should be in operation that automatically alerts the authorities to the presence of a memorial or monument on land that is the subject of a planning proposal. The protection and preservation of memorials in London must become a key consideration in planning policies developed by individual boroughs, the report says.

Tony Arbour, an assembly member who led the investigation into the capital’s memorials, said: ”The thousands of war memorials in the capital, of all shapes and sizes, are a real and tangible reminder of Londoners who gave their todays for our tomorrows. To preserve London’s remaining memorials, planning processes must be changed to reflect the unique protection these aspects of our built environment require, and applied carefully by the mayor and the boroughs”.

There are an estimated 100,000 war memorials and monuments in the country, with 5,500 listed in London. The report says that they are under threat from neglect, permitted development, vandalism and theft, collapse and natural erosion and also because they are not protected as architectural landmarks in the same way as historic buildings.

It highlights how a memorial at St George’s church in Peckham, southeast London, had disappeared by 1993 after the building was closed in 1971 and became derelict. Others are broken into pieces, as happened to a memorial tablet at a bus station in Palmers Green that was rebuilt. Teak memorial panels at Old Paddington Town Hall were burnt when the drill hall was demolished and no suitable accommodation could be found for them.

The report warns that without a register of every memorial it is likely that their preservation will be overlooked in the planning process. “Appearance on a register would protect war memorials from development, and if this were accompanied by specific local planning policies requiring memorials to be retained in situ if possible or guidance for relocation if necessary, a high level of protection would be provided,” it says.

Times Online

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