The Heritage at Risk Programme (HAR) was launched in 2008, as a way of understanding the overall state of England's historic sites. In particular, the programme identifies those sites that are most at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.
The important process of systemically checking the condition of our heritage goes back more than two decades with the birth of the Buildings at Risk survey. The method has since been widened to include other types of historic places (heritage assets) from archaeological sites and conservation areas to registered parks and gardens, registered battlefields, and protected shipwrecks.
The end result is a dynamic picture of the health of the country's heritage. Every year English Heritage updates the Heritage at Risk Register, which is a list of those sites most at risk of being lost, and most in need of safeguarding for the future.
Heritage at Risk 2014 is the most comprehensive to date, recording listed buildings, places of worship, scheduled monuments, industrial sites, conservation areas, parks and gardens, protected wrecks and battlefields identified as at risk and in need of rescue.
Overall there has been a reduction in the number of sites on the Register, but more than a third of buildings that were on the Register when it first began in 1999 are still there now. We can't give up on these incredibly important historic buildings; getting them back in use will contribute towards the country's growing economy. As the economy starts to improve and the demand for development increases, we need to push these buildings forward and find a future for them.
Over the past year we have focused much of our effort on assessing listed Places of Worship, and visiting those considered to be in poor or very bad condition as a result of local reports. We now know that of the 14,775 listed places of worship in England, 6% (887) are at risk and as such are included on this year's Register. This is fewer than expected but congregations face a big challenge to bring these buildings back into a good condition. We now know that they face a combination of failing roofs, broken gutters and downpipes and damage to high level stonework with most places of worship suffering from at least two of these problems. We will continue to work with the Heritage Lottery Fund, National Churches Trust and a range of other charities and trusts to make sure funding and advice is directed to those most at risk.
Why Is It Important?
People regularly say how much the historic character of where they live, work and play makes a contribution to their lives. As public and private finance remains scarce, it is essential that everyone continues to focus on those heritage assets that are at greatest risk and that offer the best opportunities for positively managed change.
At risk evidence tells communities about the condition of their local neighbourhood; it encourages them to become actively involved in restoring what is precious to them and it reassures them that any public funding goes to the most needy and urgent cases. The benefits of collecting data on places at risk will become even more important as public spending continues to diminish.
Buildings at Risk has proved that the Register works - over half of England's grade I and II* buildings and structural scheduled monuments at risk on the 1999 Register have since had their future secured.
Regularly reviewing and updating our assessments of heritage assets allows us to pinpoint trends and explore why change is happening and how we can bring about more positive change in the future.
What Does the Programme Include?
Since 2008 English Heritage has built up an understanding of the condition and management of historic buildings, landscapes and archaeological sites.
In 2011 we published findings on the Industrial Heritage at Risk project which examined the state of England's industrial heritage and the factors that put these sites at risk.
As well as carrying out surveys on condition and management, English Heritage also does social and economic research to understand the value of heritage.