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The Strange Case of the Minister and her advisers @ Historic Scotland

Why is our entire Community Wrong and Historic Scotland Right about the Listing of the Auld Fowler's HQ?

There is unanimous support at East Lothian Council, our MSP Iain Gray, Prestonpans Community Council, from the Architectural Heritage of Scotland Society's Forth & Borders Panel and the Arts Festival that the Auld Fowler's HQ should be Listed.

However, without telling Linda Fabiani MSP, the Minister who actually is responsible for the statutory Listings, Historic Scotland wrote to all concerned telling them they had made the decision not to List. The Minister only found out when Iain Gray MSP asked his Question last Thursday at Holyrood. This was how the exchange went:

Iain Gray (East Lothian) (Lab): "To ask the Scottish Executive what steps it is taking with regard to the listing of the Coeval [Auld Fowler's HQ] building in Prestonpans." (S3O-3544)

The Minister for [Europe, External Affairs and] Culture (Linda Fabiani): "Under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997, Scottish Ministers have a statutory duty to consider for protection buildings of special architectural and historical interest. That duty is, of course, carried out by Historic Scotland on Scottish Ministers' behalf." [ed. Really? Why would that be? Who says so?]

"Historic Scotland policy is that listing will not normally be advanced when a live application exists for a proposal that would affect the character of the property. An application has been lodged with East Lothian Council for demolition of the Coeval building and development of the site. In that context, listing is not currently a matter for Historic Scotland's consideration."

"However, as Historic Scotland was in the process of assessing the merits of listing the building before the application was submitted, it completed the process. After careful consideration, it reached the view that the Coeval building in Prestonpans does not have the necessary special architectural or historical interest to satisfy the criteria for listing." [ed. Freedom of Information Act disclosure shows the strange limits of such consideration

Iain Gray: "Prestonpans has a proud industrial history, which involves mines, potteries, soap works and—of course — the salt pans, but little remains of that history's physical manifestations. Fowler's brewery's old headquarters is the sole remaining historical industrial building in the town. It is a strange kind of inverse parochialism that says that because the building is only of local historical interest, it is not worthy of being listed."

"The local community and, in particular, the local arts festival have many ideas for saving the building and thereby enhancing the town. I hope that the Minister will reject the advice that she has received against the listing of the building and will instead listen to Panners who wish to see this bit of their past preserved."

Linda Fabiani: "The building in question was first considered for listing in 1996, during the review of the list for the burgh, when it was not found to satisfy the criteria for inclusion on the statutory lists. The listing of the building was considered again, following a further request in October 2006. The same conclusion was reached. The most recent review concluded in May 2008, when Historic Scotland once again found that the case for listing was insufficient, even were the council not considering a planning application for the site."

Minister Declined to Meet Panners

The Minister has never met Panners. She has just listened to Historic Scotland after the event, and this despite the support of her SNP colleagues in the Pans. She had earlier indicated she was too busy to come to the Pans and as her answer showed she declined to respond to Iain Gray's suggestion she should now visit the Pans.

Accordingly there seems little option but for the Pans to go to her and the option of presenting a petition to the Petitions Committee of Parliament has now also been taken:GO


But as well as that possible course of action, the data trail requested and received under the Freedom of Information Act 2002 shows that Historic Scotland did not communicate the views of Panners as to why they favoured Listing. All that was communicated to any of the external authorities that Historic Scotland consulted was its own views. And as indicated above the Minister was never informed of the decision made in her name by Historic Scotland although they knew that she had been approached by Iain Gray MSP and our community at large and that it was an issue of great local concern.

click on press cutting to enlarge

Strange indeed, and plainly unfair. Potentially such oversights could well have given rise to a miscarriage of justice under delegated administrative law.

A re-opening of the consideration of the Request for Listing has now been called for in a letter to the Minister, and she has been invited for the third time to visit the Pans to see what fate she is allowing Historic Scotland to determine in her name.

To be continued ...

Published Date: May 31st 2008

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