Heritage concerns are giving way to climate concerns in making old buildings sustainable.

The subject was on the agenda at OxPropSummit when the decision by Cambridge’s City councillors made the controversial decision to approve the installation of solar panels on the roof of the iconic Grade I-listed King’s College Chapel.

With twice the national average of listed buildings, Oxford faces similar issues to meet its 2030 net zero objectives.

Chris Pattison, head of planning for Bidwells Oxford (pictured), reported a shift in thinking.

He said: “Traditionally, we’ve seen quite a purist approach. It’s been about making interventions which are, perhaps, too modernistic, perhaps not compatible with the historic fabric.

“There’s always been a get-out clause, which is balancing heritage harm against public benefit and that’s where the debate has changed – what is a benefit?”

He said, traditionally, the debate had been local but now the thinking has changed.

“Planning has embraced the ‘think global, act local’ catch phrase around the climate change debate. We are now seeing carbon reduction and energy reduction as being public benefits and for the wider public good.”

But he described the Cambridge decision as ‘overrated’.

He went on: “It’s often cast as a brave authority making a stand against the conservationist buddy buddies but I think when you look at the detail of it, Historic England the Church of England have been approving these sorts of schemes on cathedrals all over the country. So this is not new.”

“Even in their objection, Historic England left the door open on public benefit.

“That being said, there was an interesting comment that it will only saving 1.4 per cent of the college’s carbon footprint. They didn’t take that comment further but it was said in a very sniffy way which suggests to me that what we are talking about here is finding a new equilibrium in how far you go – where is the new balance?”

Here’s the full list of stories from OxPropSummit 2023:







He said change will be evolution, rather than revolution.

© Thames Tap (powered by ukpropertyforums.com).

Sign up to receive our weekly free journal, The Forum here.