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 67.

    While you're on about Shrewsbury, what about Ditherington Flax mill? Plans for this historic building include demolishing a WWII shadow factory site ostensibly to improve access but really to provide land for speculative developers. And are they excavating the old canal between the former bus garage and the Mill site? Access over an authentic hump-backed bridge (with tank traps?): not likely!

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Much of this comes too late. Cameron is intent on celebrating the start of the Great War (why not the end?) yet many historic artefacts from that time have been left to moulder. Shrewsbury has two significant RAF bases but they have been largely destoyed or changed immutably - English Heritage would not even list the Belfast truss hangars at RAF Monkmoor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Quote "
    46. frillie gillie

    Please save Mentmore Towers .... English Heritage are having difficulty in getting the owner to continue with repairs, it would be awful to see it fall into complete disrepair. " /end Quote

    Perhaps the owners have not the money?
    Perhaps the cost outweighs the completed value?
    Repairs to listed buildings cost a fortune.

    No point spending money that will never return.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Some buildings are beautiful so need them to show future generations, that is if this country is not destroyed by being covered in cement due to vast encouragement of overpopulation by governments who wont do take action with this huge problem. I fail to see why some are kept ie John Lennons which should have a family living in it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    A complete waste of time and money, half the listed buildings in this country are barely fit for purpose, the millstone placed around the neck of the owners to maintain them is ridiculous, most should just be flattened and a new modern fit for purpose building put in it's place.
    English Heritage - The biggest joke is on the public, they cost us billions!

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Unfortunately, it seems that some large development companies are attempting to exploit the EH Enabling Development Policy as an excuse to build housing developments in sensitive areas in order to 'save' listed buildings whilst, in reality, making millions of pounds of profit for themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    We tried getting status on an unusual church building, to retain it on the outside and use the inside for community activities for over 100 children. Needless to say, after a mysterious fire, it is now a building site!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Over-zealous protection by local planning depts has meant many fine buildings decaying while they demand authentic restoration that cannot be funded by the owners. Time for a more realistic approach that will return empty buildings to use by reasonable restoration. My neighbours cannot demolish a roofless stable missing its front wall and on the verge of collapse. We can't keep everything....

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    With the exception of castles, stately homes, churches etc. which are absolutely unique and exemplars of our architectural heritage, the list could be pretty much erased.

    I know of at least 3 Grade II buildings within a mile of home, and none of them are even eyecatching, let alone spectacular. All are architecturally bland former farmhouses, now nestling on busy streets of 50s & 60s houses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Saving Britain's heritage will take more than preserving a few dilapidated buildings, it runs a bit deeper than that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    The idiots at English Heritage wouldn't let us install double glazed windows in our Grade 2 listed home. Our annual energy bills are now through the roof, leaving us with less money to spend on the upkeep of our home. And they wonder why these type of properties are going to pot!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Over the years I tried to buy one of a number of derelict properties to sympathetically restore as my long-term home.

    Either the property owner has had a grossly inflated value of the property or the local planning authority have been far too restrictive so none were viable.

    Most (if not all) of these properties are still derelict!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Why bother? Its too late. The country has lost its traditions which went with its heritage and even to think of protecting them is a sign of racism. Time to get out and appreciate our multicultural society from afar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    I hope Scotland doesn't have to contrinute to the bill!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    39. sanity4all
    Some say the reason Germany prospered so well, was that it had to rebuild so much after we (Allies) flatenned it in WW2.
    Hmmm.... the Germans rebuilt Cologne, Nuremberg etc as a perfect replica of the original Medieval towns. We rebuilt & redeveloped Plymouth, Coventry, Bristol, etc in modern concrete. I'd argue the Germans made the better choices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    36. Tamar
    English Heritage - guess what - the houses we are extending now will become the old houses of the future...."

    Not if they were built in the last fifty years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Please do something about the listed buildings that are in derelict conditions! I used to live in the Lace Market near to the first picture. and that particular part of the Lace market was almost intimidating to walk past because the building were starting to look so uncared for. Whats the point in preserving buildings if you are just going to let them end up looking terrible?

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.


    "...why don't modern builders copy them, instead of building ugly little boxes with cardboard-thin walls?..."


    Because unlike elsewhere in EU, the developers' lobby has got the laxest planning rules which say they can build this rubbish, instead of having to do just that.

    It's partly why few want to visit much of the UK. It's hideous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    More use should be made of compulsory purchase, Blight Orders, powers under planning law etc. in general by local authorities. However, as they will be preserving a national asset, the public cost element should not be borne by the CT payers.

    This would be a helpful stick, for a change from endless ineffective and inflationary carrots, to cause activity in building trades.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    47 Graphis

    Because there are higher profit margins in ticky tacky little boxes squeezed onto postage stamp sized plots (to make more room for more boxes to sell) than investing in quality design, materials & workmanship.

    Accountants not architects drive developments these days.


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