Purists might not like them, but 1960s buildings are part of Britain's architectural heritage and they deserve protection.
Seen from above, it looks a bit like Sydney Opera House. The roof resembles a series of curving shells, shimmering white with the reflection of the sun.

But those responsible for Oxford Road Station in Manchester claim with indignant pride that they thought of it first. I suppose there is room for argument here, since construction of both buildings began in 1958, although the opera house took a lot longer to complete.

In the benevolent climate of south-east Australia, the opera house has weathered very well. But Oxford Road Station has been buffeted over the years by rain and wind. Water accumulated on the roof, and scaffolding was erected in the early 1990s to prevent further deterioration.

What was once a pioneer in design and technology had become unsightly and forlorn. Some might even have written it off as a brilliant idea that could not survive the testing conditions of England's North-west. Even so, a key railway station used by 2 million passengers a year could obviously not be disposed of or wished away. Some kind of work had to be done on it.

Furthermore, despite its condition, Oxford Road Station was granted listed status in 1995. So, after it became Railtrack's property, any reconstruction needed to be faithful to the original design.

Accordingly, when Railtrack decided to reconstruct, the design of 40 years before was the blueprint for the renovated structure. Although much more work is needed on the station itself – parts of which remain unsightly, inconvenient or inefficient – the work on the distinctive roof is now complete and looks splendid.

Modern building methods should help to ensure that the 1998 version lasts longer than the 1958 original. Although laminated timber, coaxed skilfully and sensitively into a curved, conical shape, still forms the basis for the roof's exterior, it is underlined with a steel frame, cork insulation and a weatherproof membrane for added protection.

Forty years ago, when the new roof was first put in place, any serious deterioration might have prompted a decision to pull the whole thing down and start again with a play-safe, orthodox design.

Forty years ago, brutalist demolition and redesign were too often the order of the day. Ugly city centres today are evidence of the lack of aesthetic sensibility at that time. Today, we are far more sensitive and far less ready to destroy.

Oxford Road Station is proof that, although the criteria for listing should be stringent, they should not be aloof, exclusive or hidebound

Happily, preservation, wherever possible, is now the watchword. Yet there is another lesson here. The idea of listing buildings as recent as Oxford Road Station, completed in 1960, does not appeal to some purists. These aesthetes – snobs, some might call them – do not believe that 1960s structures are venerable enough to be included under the definition of "heritage".

Yet surely, any building that is extremely pleasing to the eye, that is unusual and original in its design, and that can be included in the – not exactly bulging – file of 20th-century British landmarks ought to merit special treatment and protection.

British architecture from the 1960s to the 1990s is not exactly a crowd-puller, and we ought to cherish what we possess that is unquestionably of real merit.

Railtrack has dealt with Oxford Road Station with admirable sensitivity, but it would be the first to acknowledge that its sensitivity was spurred by the building's listed status. Oxford Road Station is proof that, although the criteria for listing should always be stringent, they should not be aloof, exclusive or hidebound.

Of course, there is another consideration. Listed buildings are protected from demolition or alteration. But whether, if they fall into decrepitude, they can be rehabilitated, depends not on their pedigree but on the funds available to their owners. Woolwich Arsenal in south London, which contains several admirable listed buildings, is a sad picture of decay because of lack of money for the Royal Artillery museum that should ideally be located there.

Railtrack is well off. It could afford to spend £3m on Oxford Road Station alone, as part of a £1bn, five-year station regeneration programme.

Many other listed buildings from all architectural eras, different from Oxford Road Station but comparably distinctive in style, may not have such affluent owners. What happens to them? Too often, they just crumble, ever so gracefully.