We at English Heritage have been collecting information on the condition of our built heritage since the publication of our first Register of listed buildings at risk in London in 1991. 1998 saw the publication of the first national Buildings at Risk Register, which included some entries on 'structural' scheduled monuments with substantial masonry remains. The Heritage at Risk Register now records information on all protected historic places, from buildings to battlefields. But this year we have changed the format to clearly differentiate between buildings and structures at risk and non-structural archaeology at risk.
The 'buildings or structures' section therefore now includes information on:
- all grade I and II* listed buildings
- grade II listed buildings in London and
- structural scheduled monuments
(Information about non-structural archaeology continues to be covered under the section on Scheduled Monuments.)
This information goes back to 1999 and our new format helps us to understand the reasons why buildings or structures are at risk and track any trends in risk over time.
The Current Situation
The number of buildings or structures on the Heritage at Risk Register has decreased continually since 1999 and 57.5% of the original entries have been removed, which is extremely positive. However, new sites have been added to the Register every year so that the overall number of buildings at risk has only fallen by 282 from 1,428 to 1,146. This means that 4.1% of listed buildings and structures are in poor enough condition to be included on the Register.
In 2012 English Heritage offered over £7 million in grants for 74 buildings or structures on the Register. This brings the total number of sites that have received grants since 1999 to more than 1,000. The importance of providing grant aid to help manage heritage at risk is evident in the fact that over half of the buildings or structures on the Register, ranging from medieval ruins to redundant bridges and mausoleums are not economically viable.
With no economic incentive to look after these national treasures our grants and those of our partners become critical. In this respect the Register really works to focus our efforts as well as the attention of the public, investors and other stakeholders on our most deserving cases.
Our trend analysis shows little change in the percentage of buildings or structures on the Register that are capable of economic use over the last year. We would have hoped that this percentage (45%) would decrease as the country moves out of recession, but it is in fact higher than the 2007 figure of 42%.
We would have also hoped that as the economy improved more buildings or structures on the Register would become economically viable to repair and capable of being re-used. However, unfortunately this is not the case and the proportion of listed buildings and structures on the Register has risen from around 12% in 2009 to 15% in 2013.
Of equal concern is the fact that the conservation deficit (the funding gap between the cost of repairs and the value of the building) faced by these buildings and structures has increased significantly since 2012 and now stands at £438 million.
The Challenge Ahead
In 2012 we set ourselves the target of removing 25% or 309 buildings or structures from the 2010 Register by 2015. The size of the funding gap and the percentage of buildings without any beneficial use present a real challenge. Many of these buildings have been on the Register for a long time and it is clear that partnership is critical in finding solutions for them. Local authorities, charitable trusts, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Natural England, private investors and developers are key partners.
With so many buildings and structures needing grant aid as part of their solution, not-for- profit organisations capable of attracting such funding have an important role to play. Our partnership with Architectural Heritage Fund has provided four Heritage at Risk Officers across the country who have helped establish new building preservation trusts and are working with existing trusts to develop projects of this kind.
The good news is that, despite the challenges and with the help of our partners, we have so far exceeded our annual targets for removing buildings and structures from the Register. Of our target of 309 only 77 buildings remain to be removed.