England's heritage: Saving at risk listed buildings

41 Pilcher Gate, Nottingham​ Buildings at risk include the oldest residential house in Nottingham built between 1690 and 1700

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A national public body has announced plans to attempt to save England's Grade II listed buildings from the threat of neglect.

English Heritage (EH) is calling on members of the public to assess Grade II listed buildings in their area and flag up if they think they are falling into disrepair.

There are 345,000 Grade II listed buildings in England and the body has extended its Heritage at Risk Register to include these types of sites for the first time.

The list already covers Grade II buildings in London and Grade I and Grade II* buildings in the rest of England but the list is expected to increase as Grade II buildings account for 92% of all those listed.

Heritage treasury

Buildings already identified as "at risk" include the oldest house in Nottingham, a women only lido in Reading and a bomb store in Suffolk.

One of the watchtowers at the Suffolk bomb store A monument to the Cold War has been identified as at risk

EH was at the nuclear bomb facility at Barnham to launch the scheme.

John Ette, inspector of monuments for English Heritage, said: "We've always targeted Grade I, Grade II* and scheduled monuments, but this year we're targeting Grade II listed buildings via a series of pilot studies to extend what we're learnt.

"We're working with local authorities, building preservation trusts or owners to look at what we can do with the Grade II ones, so we'll try to do up to 15 pilot studies to see what we can learn."

Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: "Grade II buildings are the bulk of the nation's heritage treasury.

"When one of them is lost, it's as though someone has rubbed out a bit of the past - something that made your street or your village special will have gone."

To begin the project, EH has earmarked £250,000 to run the pilot surveys.

Start Quote

The whole thing depends on people's enthusiasm but people in England are very passionate about our historic buildings”

End Quote Edward Impey English Heritage

Edward Impey, director of heritage protection for English Heritage, said they would choose a diverse range of areas including urban, rural and those with higher economic challenges for the scheme which will run for a year.

EH staff have been redeployed in new Heritage at Risk teams in each of EH's nine local offices to work exclusively on supporting owners, developers, local authorities and volunteers in rescuing buildings so they can be removed from the list.


Mr Impey said: "The point of the list is to catch things early - some Grade II buildings don't exist any more.

"We don't know how many buildings are at risk but our ambition is to assess them all and look at how many are deemed to be at risk.

"The first thing we need to know is their condition on a case-by-case basis."

EH will publish an assessment guide online so people can review a building from the outside and gauge if it is at risk.

He said: "We'll ask them things like: 'Is it occupied, has it got broken windows and plants growing out of the gutters?'."

Once a building is submitted it will be assessed by English Heritage who will work with funding bodies and local authorities and groups to try to put together a restoration programme.

Site owner Keith Eldred in front of s storage kiosk Not all of the at risk sites are traditional buildings

But EH will not be able to fund all of the work - the body has seen its own budget cuts from £30m in 1999 to £12.5m.

And while in the past developers might repair a building knowing they could sell it and recoup their costs, the "conservation deficit" has rocketed during the recession.

From 2007 to 2012 the deficit - which is the shortfall between the cost of repairs and the money an owner could expect to recoup from the market value of a repaired property - increased from £330m to £423m. The average deficit per site rose from £267,000 to £366,000.

But Mr Impey said despite budgets being squeezed he still believed people were interested in saving buildings.

"Its difficult for local authorities because they are very hard pressed and there are fewer conservation staff but that doesn't mean the will isn't there," he said.

"English Heritage funds have diminished too but there are other sources of money and people are very good at raising money.

"The whole thing depends on people's enthusiasm but people in England are very passionate about our historic buildings."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    If these buildings are so wonderful that they're worth preserving, then why don't modern builders copy them, instead of building ugly little boxes with cardboard-thin walls?

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Please save Mentmore Towers a beautiful and stunning building in Aylesbury Vale, Bucks, with history and sentimental value to many people whose anscestors worked and lived there. It has been a location for films and videos in the past, but the English Heritage are having difficulty in getting the owner to continue with repairs, it would be awful to see it fall into complete disrepair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    If it belongs in a museum, perhaps it should be placed in one.

    It would not be the first time a whole building were dismantled, moved somewhere new and re-erected.

    This gives planners a better and open prospect for redeveloping brown areas.

    Towns Cities houses and homes are for the living.
    Museums are visions of how we were accustomed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    EH is a good thing in theory. In practice it often leaves a costly, unsightly mess. Not far from here there's and an old listed hospital that has mostly gone apart from one small building. It is left alone in the middle of a field in ruin with boarded up windows, breeze blocks filling in sections and scorch marks from arson. There's nothing at all good about it. Either fix it or knock it down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Be careful...I recall Glasgow District Council demolishing hundreds of Victorian sandstone buildings in th 70's .....because it was cheaper to build new ones...guess what these new ones were damp invested piggeries in huge schemes....The workmanship of old, still stands true to this day....

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    English Heritage needs to be shutdown.

    Just another bunch of the "chosen few" doing what they want to do at the expense of everyone else.

    Stop it and close the lot down now.

    Get people into real jobs not fake historians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Seems to me a good project for Community Service.
    Obviously it needs to be led by people ith some expertise, but all the boring work could be done by the offenders.
    Better than them drinking tea in a charity shop.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Do we really need these ugly buildings?

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Some say the reason Germany prospered so well, was that it had to rebuild so much after we (Allies) flatenned it in WW2.

    We need to move on as well.
    We can't forever spend taxpayers and council grants preserving every piece of history and tat.

    Photograph, digitise, document and rebuild.

    We spend more money on "living in aspic" than we do than on providing for our present needs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Our ancestors didn't worry about saving buildings (other than maybe some castles)
    Londoners managed to burn down quite a bit in the middle ages.
    Too many buildings are listed for frivolous and sometimes, spiteful reasons (to prevent development).
    We live in an evolving world. Would anyone want to go back to mud hut squalor?
    Spend money on the care of our elderly not woodworm and rot!

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    IMO EH have failed. They put too many obstacles infront of people that want to buy grd2 properties and do them up to live in. I get the impression they want to leave them till they get to a state and then say, "we need money to restore these buildings". EH need a reality check and less control over what goes on when a person buys a grd2 porperty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    So we can add as huge and ugly an extension as we like on our own properties but no we mustn't touch our old buildings? English Heritage - guess what - the houses we are extending now will become the old houses of the future....

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    It's a pity they didn't stop the criminal destruction of real heritage property by the British Railways Board such as Euston Arch and Great Hall . Now this quango wants us to do the work for them in sorting out the Class 2 stuff. If they had bothered to distinguish between a narrow class 2 and a broad new class 3, they wouldn't be in this mess. It's a good job for them that we had the Blitz.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    The past is important but you can't live in it forever. Saying that though the quality of these old buildings are so much better than todays new builds that it would be stupid to knock them down anyway. Repair and re-use as best you can is what I'd do. If I could afford it, which I cant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    345,000 Grade II listed buildings in England alone ?
    But how many are in need of repair ?
    Where do they expect to get the money ?
    I agree with preserving important buildings, but you only need a few key examples of each type. The rest could be photographed, measured and documented before being de-listed & sold for re-development.
    You have to be selective and practical about this

  • Comment number 32.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Hoarders fret over the potential loss of material property that has been deemed to be useless though non-use.

    If a hoarder can't make use of "assets" then they are not assets but are liabilities, with associated price tags to maintain them, to make them secure, and to protect them from people who could make use of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    It seems that I'm not the only one who really does not care about much of what EH is spending our money on. I suggest we just cut their budget by 75% and then let them see what we really want preserved. Currently they have a strong inclination to keep expanding "the list" as it justifies their existence. There are many things we need more than rotting railway bridges and 19th century buildings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Choose the best of all the buildings to preserve in the country in a museum, and let the remainder decay if tax money needed. I am concerned with every village/town/city having to maintain the same kind of property to be seen in the next place. It is less important than the well being of the now and future. There is too much navel gazing re. history of families and places by too many people in UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Why the negatives for #8? Its a fair point. Many listed buildings are falling into disrepair because the cost of renovating is vastly higher than for unlisted buildings. With grade 2 or grade 1 listed you can't use any slate to fix the roof... it has to be as close as possible to the original, usually at vast cost. No private buyer will take on such a liability.


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