At English Heritage we've 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. In 1998 we published the first national Buildings at Risk Register, which included grade I and II* listed buildings across the country, grade II listed buildings in London and some 'structural' scheduled monuments with substantial masonry remains. Our national Heritage at Risk Register now records information on all protected historic places, from buildings to battlefields.
In the buildings and structures section you can find information on:
- all grade I and II* listed buildings
- grade II listed buildings in London and
- structural scheduled monuments
Information about non-structural archaeology (earthworks, below ground archaeology etc) continues to be covered under the section on Scheduled Monuments.
With information going back to 1999 we can track trends over time. This helps us to understand the reasons why buildings or structures are at risk and work out ways of improving their condition.
The Current Situation
The number of buildings or structures on the Heritage at Risk Register has decreased continually since 1999. 59% of the original entries have been removed, suggesting that the Register really works to focus our efforts and the attention of the public, investors and other stakeholders on the most deserving cases. However, new sites continue to be added to the Register every year so that the overall number of buildings at risk has only fallen by 313 from 1,428 to 1,115. This means that 4% of buildings and structures still remain in poor enough condition to be included on the Register.
Over half (55%) of the buildings or structures on the Register, ranging from medieval ruins to redundant bridges and mausoleums, are not capable of economic use. With no economic incentive for owners to look after these national treasures, our grants and those of our partners become critical. In 2013 English Heritage provided £8.8 million in grants to 262 entries on the Register.
In terms of those buildings and structures on the Register which are capable of economic use (45%), our trend analysis shows little change since 1999. Over the past year, we had hoped that the improving economic climate might have encouraged fuller use of the country's building stock. We hoped to see more buildings coming off the Register as people chose to invest in development schemes reusing historic buildings. Disappointingly, there are more potentially income-generating buildings on the Register now than at the height of the recession, when money to invest was in scarcer supply.
We collect information on the 'conservation deficit' - the funding gap between the cost of repairs and the end value of a building. This has increased significantly since 2012 and now stands at £443 million. A worryingly low percentage of buildings on the Register (15%) are therefore economically viable to repair. Rising building and materials costs following the recession are partly responsible for this. In addition, the continuing deterioration of buildings and structures which have been on the Register for a number of years increases the cost of bringing them back in to use.
The Challenge Ahead
In 2012 we set ourselves the target of removing 25% or 309 buildings or structures from the 2010 Register by 2015. This target is almost achieved with only 18 entries left to remove. However, the size of the funding gap, the percentage of buildings not capable of economic use and the continuing addition of buildings and structures to the Register present a real challenge.
Partnership remains critical in finding solutions. Local authorities, Natural England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, charitable trusts, private investors and developers are key partners.
Our partnership with Natural England has brought significant amounts of European funding to buildings and structures on the Register over recent years. This funding is currently being renegotiated. We are therefore working hard with Natural England to ensure that the historic environment remains on the agenda for agri-environment schemes in the future.
The on-going decline in the resources of Local Authorities continues to be a challenge. Last year we started working with them to explore ways in which we could help them to tackle heritage at risk. The provision of specialist legal advice to encourage Local Authorities to use enforcement powers has been well received and is something we will take forward this year. The vast majority of listed buildings are grade II listed and sheer numbers mean that, outside London, the collection of information on their condition is carried out by Local Authorities. Finding ways to help them do this affordably by engaging with volunteers is being taken forward in our
Help Historic Buildings project.