Our expertise is recognised by our official role in the planning process. The Twentieth Century Society has to be consulted about any application for listed building consent involving demolition, anywhere in England. Although we don’t have the same legal role in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, we are often asked to give our views on the future of important buildings of our period there.
We get to hear about threated buildings by lots of other routes too, and our members and supporters are always alert to threats and quick to let us know about them. Most societies like ours (such as the Victorian Society or the Ancient Monuments Society) can reckon on almost all the buildings of their period that should be listed already being safely included on the National Heritage List for England, which is run by Historic England. That’s not the case for us, and putting buildings forward for listing is a big part of what we do, and often a crucial early step in a campaign. We’ve called for much wider recognition for groups of C20 buildings, by designation of conservation areas, but generally our resources mean that we can only lend support to individual buildings if they are already listed, or we think they deserve to be.
Most churches in England and Wales do not need to apply for listed building consent and changes are managed through a separate system. C20 Society has to be consulted on these too, and has a specialist caseworker who does this.
We encourage architects, developers and owners to consult with us before they put in planning applications, so that we can explain why we think a building is important and try to help them find solutions which meet their needs and preserve what’s special about it. Sometimes that’s not possible and we end up lobbying hard against the granting of permission. The caseworkers present cases at the monthly meeting of our expert Casework Committee, who guide them and can also advise on lobbying press, working with local groups and coming up with positive suggestions for alternative design approaches, or more radical lateral ideas.
In the last resort, if an application we’ve fought against gets permission, we can sometimes reverse the decision at a public inquiry or consistory court hearing, chaired by a planning inspector, or lawyer, who will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State. We have to think very carefully about whether to do this as it is very time consuming and can be expensive.