Aberdeen Multi-Storey Tower Blocks: Listing Challenge

Planning - Historic Environment & Townscape


This project was worked on by roger bowdler, a partner in our heritage and townscape team, working in partnership with our client and team.

Key information

Eight tower blocks and ancillary buildings in Aberdeen, built by the City Council in the 1960s to 70s, were listed in Category A by Historic Environment Scotland (HES). The Council was concerned that this would thwart their efforts to improve the energy efficiency of the buildings and, unconvinced by HES’s case, asked us to mount a challenge. This then went to Scotland’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (Scotland’s Planning Inspectorate). Three of the eight listings were overturned, and the interiors of the ones that remained listed were excluded from the designation. This is an unparalleled result.

Our clients, Aberdeen City Council, opposed the listing of eight post-war tower blocks which ring the city centre. Designed in a Brutalist idiom and strongly influenced by Le Corbusier and by estates in London, the blocks contained 840 flats. They pose great challenges in terms of improving energy efficiency and maintenance. Despite a public consultation yielding very little support for the listing, Historic Environment Scotland decided to list all the blocks in Category A, the highest possible grade. This makes change or adaptation difficult to achieve. Our task was to appeal against the listing decision and have the listings removed or revised.

This case was pursued against the backdrop of the Covid epidemic. Nevertheless, using Scottish expertise allied to our experience in listing cases, we marshalled our case against listing using academic research and an analysis of listing decisions. We demonstrated that the blocks were strongly derivative of designs elsewhere and that their interiors lacked any claims of possessing special architectural interest. We accompanied the Scottish Planning Reporter on the site visit and subsequently advised on a legal challenge.

The results were gratifying in that listing was lifted from all of the interiors (some 840 flats) and from three of the eight blocks altogether. This lessens the burden of statutory control on what are difficult buildings to bring up to 21st-century energy requirements. Overturning any listing decision is very difficult: to have lifted the listing issue from as many as 840 flats is unprecedented.


“Montagu Evans supported Aberdeen City Council in considering the impact of the listing on a number of properties in our ownership. They helped us develop a strategy and then made successful representation against the listing, giving invaluable support to our internal asset team.”

Stephen Booth, Chief Officer – Corporate Landlord, Aberdeen City Council.

Sensitive re-use and conservation Penicuik Estate

Planning - Historic Environment & Townscape

Midlothian, Scotland

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