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£400M NEEDED TO SAVE BEST OF THE HERITAGE

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English Heritage today published its second annual Register of Buildings at Risk. Analysis of the Register has enab...
English Heritage today published its second annual Register of Buildings at Risk. Analysis of the Register has enabled it to calculate that approximately£400m is needed to save the country's Grade I and II* buildings currently at risk from neglect and decay from vanishing forever.

Jocelyn Stevens, chairman of English Heritage, revealed this startling statistic and announced a major English Heritage initiative to help find a new future for the colliery, one of the most important industrial heritage sites at risk in the country.

He said 'Our Register reveals that the heritage is in peril. Not only do we risk losing one in 25 of the Grade I and II* buildings in England, we are also squandering a major national economic asset which could be deployed in the regeneration of our towns, villages and cities.

'The Register makes England possibly the only country in the world to know the true state of its most important historic buildings. This year it contains 1,615 entries, an increase on 1,500 last year, largely due to the fuller research we have been able to carry out and excellent feedback from local authorities.

'However, the inescapable fact is that now that we have quantified the problem, we can see that heritage resources are wholly inadequate to address the needs of even the top slice. English Heritage, under current criteria, could be expected to provide about a third of the£400m subsidy needed. But given our limited budget of£5m a year for buildings at risk, that would take us 25 years. Only about one in six entries is economic to bring back into use without subsidy. But even these need skilled and dedicated people to champion their future.

'The rest of that£400m must be found from other public sources not least because the heritage contributes so much to regeneration, provides housing, jobs, sustains tourism and because reusing historic buildings reduces the need for new buildings in the countryside. Even then we shall only have tackled the top 8% of listed buildings. For the remaining 92% of buildings listed Grade II, very little help is available to the local authorities primarily responsible for them.

'While there will always be a cycle of buildings falling into neglect because they are no longer needed for their original purpose, to a large extent the Register represents a backlog of inaction and missed opportunities stretching back over half a century. Many of its entries were houses or other large buildings abandoned after wartime requisition.

'This is no state for our heritage to enter a new millennium. The English Heritage Register of Buildings at Risk sets out the task. Now we must work with everyone involved to clear this backlog within a decade and unlock the resources necessary.

'Towards this goal English Heritage is:

stepping in where no-one else will to prevent those buildings most at risk from deteriorating beyond rescue;

already making progress with partners to finding new uses for a quarter of the buildings on the Register. A third of these were built as houses and 80% of them can again provide homes. About 10% are industrial buildings and 40% of these can be brought back into use;

helping local authorities to use their statutory powers to serve Urgent Works and Repairs Notices; (Fortunately, analysis of the Register suggests that only in about one in five cases is the owner's attitude the problem.)

training all our expert staff to act to prevent buildings becoming at risk, or to reduce the degree to which they are at risk by operating a 'triage' system for buildings; and

adding at least one professional to each of our regional teams and locating our teams in the regions making them more accessible and effective in engaging with issues on the ground.

ENABLING DEVELOPMENT

English Heritage also published today a policy statement entitled 'Enabling Development and the Conservation of Historic Assets.' English Heritage has become increasingly concerned about 'enabling developments' being promoted as a means of rescuing historic buildings at risk. This document states clearly that there should be a presumption against such developments unless the benefits to the community can clearly be shown to outweigh the disadvantages and it sets out strict criteria against which proposals should be judged.

* The English Heritage Register of Buildings at Risk 1999 can be found by hitting the Conservation button on the English Heritage website at http://www.english-heritage.org.uk and going to 'Saving our past'.

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