More protection for some of Plymouth’s historic post-war buildings

Plymouth’s unique post-war architecture could enjoy more planning protection under moves to create a new conservation area in the city centre.

Plymouth City Council is considering the designation, with Royal Parade and Civic Square at its heart of a new conservation area.

It would take in New George Street to the north; Raleigh Street, Derry’s Cross, Athenaeum Lane to the west; Notte Street to the South; and Old Town Street, St Andrews Cross and abutting the western boundary of the Barbican Conservation Area to the east.

If the conservation area is agreed, as well as protecting the buildings, the new status would mean the area is eligible for funding from external organisations such as Historic England.

Aeriel shot of the proposed City Centre Conservation Area (highlighted in yellow).

Councillor Mark Coker, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning said: “Quite simply there are very few places quite like it. Plymouth has a wealth of post-modern architecture and it all tells the extraordinary story of Plymouth.”

The area being considered forms an important part of Plymouth’s City Centre, which was rebuilt, following its destruction during World War Two, based on A Plan for Plymouth 1943 by Professor Patrick Abercrombie and James Paton Watson.

Within the proposed conservation area are a number of Grade II listed buildings including Royal Bank of Scotland at St Andrew’s Cross, the Theatre Royal, Derry’s Clock Tower, the Bank Pub, the Council House and Civic Centre, Catharine Street Baptist Church, the former Barclay’s Bank and Unitarian Church.

There are also buildings, which although not listed, are regarded as ‘local heritage interest which make a significant contribution to the overall character and appearance of the area’. This includes House of Fraser and buildings next to it, the group of buildings between the former Derry’s Department Store and Pearl Assurance Building and the former Reel Cinema.

It’s not just buildings being considered – outdoor spaces in this location are also helping to make the case, including the Grade II listed Civic Square and the tree-lined Royal Parade.

Councillor Coker added: “We recognised the heritage significance of our city centre and want to ensure that changes we need to keep people flocking here happen, but in a way that preserves and enhances the character of our most significant heritage assets. We believe this designation will play an important part in helping us to achieve what we set out to achieve in the Joint Local Plan, improving the city centre and protecting our heritage assets.”

Simon Hickman, Principal Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas for Historic England (South West), said: “Plymouth is a unique example of a British city centre that was completely replanned following the devastation of World War II. Other cities, like Coventry and Southampton, suffered high levels of destruction but were rebuilt on the same street pattern with fragments surviving. Plymouth was different: the vision for a new city saw the creation of these heroic wide boulevards flanked by striking – and often beautiful – modern buildings. Much of the original vision survives, but it is tired in places. The mid-century modernist look is now very fashionable and Conservation Area status could help reinvigorate the City Centre, by using its architecture as an asset.”

Major changes are already in the pipeline with planning applications submitted to refurbish Norwich Union House and public areas around Old Town Street and New George Street, as well as the refurbishment of the Civic Centre.

People can comment on this proposal from Monday 17 to Sunday 30 June here 

Plans are also now on display in Plymouth Guildhall, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Comments on special characteristics and qualities that can be used for the next stage in the designation process – the appraisal and management plan for the conservation area can be sent by email or to City Planning Team, Floor 2 Ballard House, West Hoe Road, Plymouth, PL1 3BJ by Sunday 30 June including your name and contact details.

The proposed Conservation Area designation will go to Cabinet on Tuesday 9 July. If approved, the area will be formally designated as a Conservation Area.

Below: Map of the proposed conservation area boundary and buildings of significance.

This map shows the proposed conservation area boundary and buildings of significance.