Government says it has ‘not had chance’ to consider appeal and blames ‘case backlog’.

A decision about whether to de-list the Oliver Buildings in Barnstaple could still be months in the making.

Last week, the Gazette revealed that North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones had written to the Government in support of developers seeking to challenge their listing by Historic England.

The former Shapland and Petter factory buildings are central to a multi-million pound regeneration of the town’s Anchorwood Bank area.

The appeal by Wessex Investors was lodged in September last year, but this week the Government said it had not had chance to even consider the grounds for review.

A letter from Andy Doidge, a heritage protection casework manager at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said: “We have received a request to review the decision to list but due to a high caseload we haven’t yet had the opportunity to assess the grounds for review.

“Once we have assessed the grounds for review we may ask for further advice from Historic England, the Secretary of State’s statutory adviser on the historic environment.

“Based on the evidence of architectural and historic interest, the decision will then be made either to uphold the listing or be ‘minded to’ delist the building.

“If we are minded to delist the building then a wider consultation will take place with interested parties.”

Barnstaple businessman Philip Milton had written to Mr Doidge to support to the retention of the Oliver Buildings.

He said: “I am a Barnstaple boy and my families on both sides are from the area. These iconic buildings have correctly been designated of sufficient character to be preserved for posterity and not demolished to make way for the new development on the site.

“I do not envisage that it would be too difficult for the architects to work in liaison with the heritage officer to create some really attractive new development within the structures involved.

“My own impression would be that some exceptional and valuable residential apartments could be constructed within the shells of these buildings both for practical use and to retain the character at this important and most significant entrance to Barnstaple.”