Council chiefs have launched an appeal against the controversial decision to grant A-listed status to eight high-rise blocks in Aberdeen.
In January Historic Environment Scotland (HES) announced it planned to give the buildings the same protected status as iconic structures including Marischal College and Aberdeen Music Hall, signifying their “outstanding importance” to Scotland’s history.
The decision provoked a furious backlash, with city leaders, MPs and MSPs accusing the agency of ignoring local opinion on the issue.
Now bosses at Aberdeen City Council have lodged an appeal with the Scottish Government against the decision to list each of the blocks, giving 10 reasons it believes the buildings should not be handed enhanced protection.
They have asked the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) to consider the eight individual appeals for each high-rise collectively.
Through its lawyers Montagu Evans LLP, the local authority said: “It is the Appellant’s submission that the multi-storey flats fail to meet the listing criteria, both individually and as a group. In addition, there are other material grounds which are wholly relevant in the determination of this appeal and ought to be considered by Scottish Ministers.
“The Appellant submits these grounds are significant and should be weighed against the multi-storey flat’s inclusion on the list. It is also material that there is significant stakeholder support of the Appellant’s position, including from MSPs.
“The Appellant therefore invites the Scottish Ministers to conclude the flats should be removed from the List and uphold each of the individual appeals.”
The buildings – Gilcomstoun Land, Porthill Court, Seamount Court, Virginia Court, Marischal Court, Thistle Court, Hutcheon Court and Greig Court – were previously described by HES as “some of the finest examples of social housing Scotland”.
The organisation plans to use them to tell the story of how Scotland emerged from the Second World War.
However, in its appeals Aberdeen City Council has argued that the buildings do not meet the listing criteria, and the extent of the listed status.
It has also claimed the decision to grant protected status would “present significant challenges for the council as corporate landlord”, as well as the negative public view of the buildings in the city.
Further claims state the designation will have a “critical impact on the economic development” of the sites, and that it will cause “unreasonable additional costs”.
The council has argued it has been unable to access key information contained within and related to the high-rise buildings as a result of current Covid-19 restrictions.
It said: “The timing of the listing, in the middle of the pandemic, and the consequent timetable for appeal, encourages travel and access to the buildings that is contrary to current government guidance, and adds otherwise unnecessary risks for the agents, building managers and residents.
“Further, it is currently impossible to access any of the archival material and some of the published material cited in the list description.
“Aberdeen City Archives are close to the public and have been since last March. They hold the original drawings for the buildings and papers relating to the development of the scheme.
“Aberdeen Central Library, which holds the 1952 City Plan and other local history publications, is also closed.
“HES undertook their research before the lockdown began in March 2020. Inability to access this material harms the Appellant’s ability to respond fully to the listings.”
A spokeswoman for HES said: “In January, HES listed eight multi-storey buildings in Aberdeen at Category A in recognition of their outstanding architectural and historic interest.
“We are aware that Aberdeen City Council are appealing the decision to list these buildings. The appeals are now with the DPEA division of the Scottish Government, and we await their decision.”