Prince's man fears for heritage

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 24/05/2012
Prince Charles
Reuters
Prince Charles

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An adviser to Prince Charles fears "short-sighted" heritage decisions are adding to the devastation of the Canterbury earthquakes.

The concerns are raised in a letter from the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment to Christchurch heritage campaigner Rodney Laredo. Foundation chief executive Hank Dittmar is Prince Charles' senior architecture and planning adviser.

There are plans for the prince's architecture and planning advisers to visit Christchurch about the time of his official New Zealand trip in November.

"We share your concern that the devastation brought about by the earthquake will be further compounded by short-sighted decision-making over Christchurch's heritage," Dittmar wrote.

"You have seen our offer of help to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority. This has been acknowledged, with the message that they will be in touch if they need us.

"Our own resources do not permit further action at this stage, but I will be following developments, and the future of the cathedral, with interest."

The prince is known for his strong views on heritage protection, and his foundation assisted disaster recovery after the Haiti quake and the New Orleans floods.

Dittmar may hold a rebuild briefing in Christchurch this year, says an email from the foundation's director of policy and research, James Hulme.

Laredo, a member of heritage group Iconic, was pleased with the letter from Dittmar. It was sent in December but made public yesterday.

He said the foundation was "one of the most celebrated organisations in the world that champions architecture".

"I think it is terribly important that Christchurch's heritage and neo-Gothic buildings are kept," he said.

"If we rebuild in the concrete box and glass frontage way, which is what we have seen come forward at the moment, no-one will visit Christchurch to admire the Legoland concepts of what the new Christchurch could look like.

"The whole world is watching what we are doing in Christchurch."

Dittmar expressed concerns over the fate of Christchurch heritage buildings in March last year.

"In the aftermath of the disaster, there can be a natural tendency to move forward quickly and a danger that the character of a place can be lost in the ensuing reconstruction," he wrote.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are to visit New Zealand in November as part of the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations.

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It is not known if they will visit Christchurch.

- The Press

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