Listed building protection is supposed to be an integrated two stage process. First to identify buildings of merit before they are damaged and second to grant listed building consent only to alterations which are sympathetic. This case has gone doubly wrong.
Middleton Hall and the Larkin Building behind are both designed by Sir Leslie Martin (designed 1962, built 1965-7). They sit next to one another in the heart of Hull University. The complex taken together is arguably the jewel in the University’s architectural and cultural crown. Sir Leslie Martin’s careful and subtle design of distinct massing and sheer brick walls give this complex of buildings a strong sculptural form. Middleton Hall is expected to play a key role when the city hosts the UK City of Culture in 2017.
The alterations currently proposed to Middleton Hall include major extensions to the front facade including a new glass café extension and projecting entrance lobby, re-modelling the auditorium and irreversible changes to the plan form of the building. The proposals also include unsightly additions that will join the Middleton Hall and the neighbouring Larkin Building at ground floor.
There is still no Conservation Management Plan in place, and the University has not sought professional heritage advice. If granted, the proposals would result in drastic and harmful extensions to the building. Phase 1 of the University’s extension plans were approved in July 2014, despite our strong objections and now the second phase of major works has been submitted for approval – continuing the harmful alterations.
Catherine Croft, Director Twentieth Century Society said: “The University is acting in a short-sighted and philistine manner. All eyes will be on Hull when it is UK City of Culture. It is tragic that if the plans are granted, this building will be so disfigured by then.”
Middleton Hall was listed at grade II very recently, in 2014, in direct response to the proposed alterations being drawn up by the University. But the listing application for both had been lodged by us since 2005 – and the Larkin Building remains undetermined. It is still unlisted. We feel strongly that if the full listing application been considered promptly, a conservation led approach could have been achieved. The partial listing has been too little too late – we fear that the second phase of plans could be granted by Hull City Council.
The Twentieth Century Society has written to Hull City Council strongly objecting to the planning application and listed building consent applications. A decision is expected to be issued in mid-January 2015.