By Tim Montgomerie
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THE SALISBURY CITY SKYSCAPE
What are your favourite urban views?
"Do you go for formal perfection, like Bath’s Royal Crescent or London’s Mall? Or the chaotic, bright lights and bustle of Broad Street in Birmingham or Liverpool’s Concert Square after dark? Did Canaletto get it right with his soft-focus takes on London’s skyline and the Thames, or did the Kinks capture the gritty bustle of Waterloo Sunset perfectly instead? Even Wordsworth, when he wasn’t mooning over clumps of daffodils, thought the view from Westminster Bridge was pretty special."
John Penrose MP wants to know and he wants to know if you want those views protected. Writing for today's Telegraph the former Culture minister argues that great views should be protected from destruction in the same way that great buildings are protected. This, he notes, already happens on a piecemeal basis with local authority planning controls and the creation of conservation zones. This current system, however, can be very bureaucratic and not very joined-up. Mr Penrose argues that it inhibits development of derelict urban areas and if developers can't work easily with brownfield sites then they set their eyes on greenfield locations in Britain's countryside.
Penrose's conclusion lacks any specific recommendations but I think he's on to something important:
"English Heritage, together with its opposite numbers in other countries, plus Unesco and a lot of strong coffee, should be able to come up with something that does the trick. If it dispels the fog of risk and uncertainty around big, historic urban building sites, then it should be quicker, cheaper and easier to regenerate run-down parts of British towns and cities in future. And by protecting the best bits – your favourite winter walks, and mine – from being casually destroyed today, we will make them better places to live and work tomorrow as well."