4 Oct 2007

Lambeth Council

Before and after showing whitewashing of a ghostsign
Photo: sarflondondunc

Following the recent painting over of the Clapham North ‘Music Rolls‘ sign, Ocky got in touch with Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall to ask her what Lambeth Council are doing to preserve this signs. The response from Michael Copeman, via Councillor Peck, was as follows:

Dear Kate


Keith put exactly the same enquiry about the site and this was the response sent by officers. Unfortunately it doesn’t sound like there is much room for manoeuvre: I was familiar with the sign to which Mr Hill’s correspondent refers, and I agree that such things add to the richness and variety of the urban scene. Unfortunately, re-decoration, such as took place here, is not regarded as “development” under current planning legislation. It is therefore outwith the remit of planning control.


“It is possible that such signs could be protected through statutory listing, but I think it unlikely. Even where a building’s special interest primarily historic, it must generally have some architectural interest to justify inclusion. In any case, the criteria for statutory listing are the responsibility of English Heritage, and you should contact the Heritage Protection Branch (English Heritage, 1 Waterhouse Sq, 138-142 Holborn, EC1N 2ST) for advice in this respect.


A local planning authority may adopt a “local list” that identifies buildings, the architectural character of which should be a material consideration in determining planning applications, but inclusion on a local list does not extend planning control into areas that are not already defined as “development” under planning law.


Planning permission (i.e. advertising consent) would be required for a new painted advertisement. Paradoxically, it is doubtful that such a proposal would conform to local planning policies, and such an application would probably be refused.


However, the character of things like this is essentially ephemeral, and it is the fact that such things survive only rarely and accidentally that gives them their charm and fascination. Although their loss may be regretted, perhaps it is necessary to allow such changes to happen, untouched by a regulatory framework, so that in another hundred years time, people may be able to look at different but equally curious survivals – of early 21st century ephemera.”


Michael Copeman (28th August 2007)
Team Leader: Conservation and Urban Design Regeneration & Housing Department, Lambeth Planning

It is interesting that painting a new advertisement would probably be prohibited, although there is no problem with cream washing the wall. This has echoes of the case in Wandsworth. I can see the point about allowing changes to occur but still feel that, as time moves on and less signs remain, we should be leaving a few alone so that some of this aspect of our history survives as long as it takes the elements to decide their fate.

English Heritage is suggested as another body to approach, although the quote from them in the article from South London Press doesn’t offer up much hope as their requirements relate to architectural or historic importance. The latter may be demonstrable as some of these signs approach antique status.

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