After photographing the former Black Boy pub last Saturday I wrote:
I get the impression that most Labour councillors would be entirely content if the city consisted entirely of newly built supermarkets and blocks of student accommodation.The truth is worse than that. The city council's policy is to see historic, characterful buildings demolished and replace by student accommodation.
At the end of last year the council voted to allow developers to demolish the oldest buildings on London and replace them with a seven-storey block of, you guessed it, student accommodation.
According to a Leicester Mercury report at the time:
The planning official's report had said the current buildings offer a "neutral" contribution to the street – the massive new block, meanwhile, "will make a positive contribution".An earlier Mercury report quoted the developer's agent argument in favour of demolition:
"The buildings as you see them from London Road are not as they were originally."Few buildings of any age are as they were originally. That is part of what makes them interesting.
Put those two quotes together and you will see that any building in the city that is not Listed could be demolished and replaced with student accommodation with the blessing of its council.
The Mercury (back to the first Mercury article made the effort to go and look at 54-58 London Road and talk to the current occupants:
Mr Azim Walters is a defence lawyer with a handsome office at 58 London Road, but, as you may be aware, his Georgian building, along with neighbouring properties at 52, 54 and 56, are now on borrowed time.
"We don't want it demolished, for historic reasons," he says.
Set a little way off the busy city centre street, the elegant brick and stone-fronted business was once office and home to city father Arthur Wakerley – social reformer, architect and Leicester's youngest mayor – and it doesn't end there. The building was also one of the first magistrate courts in Leicester.
"Come on, I'll show you," says Mr Walters, enthusiastically leading the way through a busy office and down into a large dingy cellar into a room generously scattered with detritus.
"I was told by the historian, who looked around, these were the cells and those doors," he says, pointing to the other side of the room, "that's where they took them up the stairs. This is a historical building. People don't realise the history of it."Yesterday, which was when I took these photographs, the Mercury ran a feature on the buildings the city lost in the 1960s and their shoddy replacements.
I fear that future generations will be as dismayed by the choices we are making as were are at those made 50 years ago.