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The Weather Network
Aug. 17, 2019 | Saturday
Editorials and Opinions
Architext: Once it's gone ...
The New Traditional in our photo is a perfect case-in-point with every detail working in concert to evoke the historic Canadian interpretation of the Queen Anne style. (Brian Marshall/Supplied)

Despite the fact that in most areas my attitude is libertarian, I must confess to being a militant regarding the protection of our built heritage.

Perhaps this is due to my belief that architecture is an irreplaceable repository of our shared history and it provides unique insight into the lives of our ancestors. The joys and the struggles, the successes and failures of our people are writ large in the homes they built and occupied.

To me, the loss of even a single heritage house not only diminishes each of us but also robs our children of an opportunity to learn and celebrate the history of our nation.

For what more is a country than the centuries-long shared experience of its people? While national pride is not something that Canadians lack, the common will to enshrine it tends to be missing-in-action. This is particularly true of our approach to the protection of built heritage which, largely left to the goodwill and inclination of each property owner, has proven widely ineffectual.

Consider the process in England and Wales established in 1947. In brief, any British citizen can raise an application to have a building listed with a central government agency (Historic England or Cadw in Wales). Once filed, the building is assessed by the agency’s experts and, based on their findings, recommendation is made to the Secretary of State for the building to be “listed” (or not).

Should the building be listed, it may not be demolished, extended, or altered without special permission from the local planning authority, which typically consults the aforementioned central government agency.

Further, listed buildings are required to be maintained by the owner(s) and failure to do so may result in criminal prosecution. Here the intent is clear: protection of built-heritage is of national importance.

This attitude is not uncommon. Next week, we’ll look at an American approach.