In the early 1960s the number of listed buildings nationally was limited, but even then York had more such buildings than most other towns in the country. Legally, at that time, only listed buildings were subject to control against demolition and even then it involved a lengthy procedure and the refusal of the Secretary of State to the demolition. It became very clear that in a city such as York there were other buildings which contributed to its character – many of which were later formally listed. Ingredients such as roofscape, building materials, streetscape and architectural details were all important qualities which were too precious to destroy and which contributed to the overall character of our city. Buildings were gradually being lost due to the weakness in powers to control their demolition.
This legal weakness resulted in the production of a booklet entitledHistoric Buildings, Problems of their Preservation (1964) which advocated a need to look at whole areas rather than merely concentrating on individual buildings. The York Civic Trust decided to publish this booklet and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government of the time showed interest in adopting the principles set out in it. Eventually, a Private Members’ Bill was promoted in Parliament and became the Civic Amenities Act 1967 and included the concept of Conservation Areas. The York Civic Trust had been instrumental in helping to frame legislation which is now an integral part of national Planning/Conservation law.