Barbara Cummins: Listing Cables Wynd House doesn’t mean we’ve gone bananas

Cables Wynd House has been given A-listed status. Picture: SWNS
Cables Wynd House has been given A-listed status. Picture: SWNS
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I’ve been fascinated by the level of interest in our decision to list the ‘Banana Flats’ and nearby Linksview House. It’s been a subject of debate throughout the week, and it’s great to see so many people talking about listing.

There are two really interesting things about the feedback. One is that many people think that listing a building will prevent or at least make it more difficult for residents to make changes to improve or upgrade their homes, and also that a listed building can never be significantly altered or demolished. The second is the idea that only beautiful buildings should be listed.

Barbara Cummins of Historic Environment''Scotland

Barbara Cummins of Historic Environment''Scotland

Both are common but understandable misconceptions which we often encounter. In fact, listing a building doesn’t stop repairs or maintenance work. Even when a significant change is proposed - such as major alterations or demolition - the listing is there to highlight what makes that building of special interest, in order to help the people who decide whether to make those changes. 

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?

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

That ties into what we are doing across the whole of Scotland: we want to recognise all of our heritage. While 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.

We want to know what’s important to you and what parts of Scotland’s heritage you think should be recognised. Our What’s Your Heritage campaign is asking just that. We’d love you to fill in our survey and we’ll use that information to help us develop our policies and criteria.

Barbara Cummins is Director of Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland.