Heritage body defends A-listed status for ‘Banana Flats’

Cables Wynd House, which featured in both the Trainspotting films,  has been given A-listed status. Picture: Contributed

Cables Wynd House, which featured in both the Trainspotting films, has been given A-listed status. Picture: Contributed

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Heritage chiefs have defended handing A-listed status to the “Banana Flats” in Leith – insisting they are not only interested in “conventionally beautiful buildings.”

Government agency Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has vowed to confer listed building status on pubs, factories, tenements and social housing projects in future in order to tell “all of Scotland’s story”.

Barbara Cummins, director of heritage at HES, has drawn a comparison between the Banana Flats, which featured in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, and Victorian tenements, which she said were “much-maligned a few decades ago and couldn’t be pulled down quickly enough”.

She said: “If we only recognise conventionally beautiful buildings we’d be excluding much of Scotland’s rich and proudly diverse heritage.”

Other post-war buildings to be awarded listed status by HES include the Forth Road Bridge, a Scottish Widows office and Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh, a swim centre in East Kilbride, and a church in Cumbernauld.

It emerged last week that the Banana Flats, which were immortalised in Irvine Welsh’s novel Trainspotting and used as a location in its sequel T2, had joined the prestigious list.

Cables Wynd House, which earned its nickname due to its distinctive curved shape, and the neighbouring Linksview House, which has also been given A-listed status, are said to be of national significance due to their “groundbreaking designs”.

Ms Cummins admitted there had been mixed “feedback” over the decision. But she said there were common misconceptions that securing listed status meant a building not could never be significantly altered or demolished, and that “only beautiful buildings should be listed”.

She added: “Beauty is, as the saying goes, in the eye of the beholder. Let’s not forget that Victorian buildings were much-maligned a few decades ago and couldn’t be pulled down quickly enough. Now they are some of the most loved buildings in our communities.

“Tenements were also once frowned upon, and Linksview House and Cables Wynd House were in part a reaction to what was then seen as the unsuitable living conditions in tenements. Does it matter that these buildings are not what the majority would think is beautiful?

“Whilst castles and palaces are very important, there is a lot more to Scotland’s heritage. That means listing buildings like pubs, factories, tenements, and social housing, in order to tell all of Scotland’s story – and to celebrate it.”