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Managing Vacant Historic Buildings

When historic buildings are left vacant they are at a greatly increased risk of damage and decay as well as being a potential blight on their locality. The best way to protect a building is to keep it occupied, even if the use is on a temporary or partial basis. It is inevitable that some historic buildings will struggle to find any use, especially in areas where the property market is weak and the opportunities for sale or re-use are limited. However, such buildings may become centerpieces of future regeneration and safeguarding will allow them to fulfil their social, cultural and economic potential.

Vacant Historic Buildings

Vacant Historic Buildings

Published 15 March 2018

Guidance to help owners and purchasers of vacant buildings to reduce risks by undertaking an ‘active management approach’ that can prevent unnecessary damage, dereliction and loss of historic fabric.

Guidelines on managing risks

Owners will also benefit by maintaining the value of their assets and increasing the chances of bringing them back into permanent use. The guidance explains how to decommission buildings that are about to be vacated, as well as how to look after buildings that have already been vacant for some time.

The guidance contains the following:

1. Understanding and insuring the building
2. Tackling urgent repairs
3. Protecting features
4. Securing the building
5. Reducing fire risk
6. Considering services and environment
7. Controlling vegetation and wildlife
8. Monitoring and maintenance
9. Finding a temporary use
10. Consents and regulations
11. Appendix /Arson risk assessment
12. Where to get advice

With careful planning, buildings are less likely to stand empty for indefinite periods and the period of vacancy can be kept to a minimum.

  • Decide at an early stage whether the building needs to be retained or sold
  • Be realistic about how long the building is likely to remain vacant
  • Be imaginative about ways to re-use the building, either permanently or on an interim basis
  • Use advisers who have relevant experience in dealing with historic buildings
  • Keep options under review, taking into account market conditions
  • Budget for managing and maintaining the building while it is empty
  • Think about ‘mothballing’ as a last resort

Listed vacant buildings

Listed buildings which are left empty and unprotected may be classified as being ‘at risk’, either by Historic England or by the local planning authority. A separate guidance note, Stopping the Rot, explains the use of statutory powers to secure the repair of such buildings.

Stopping the Rot

Stopping the Rot

Published 15 April 2016

A guide to enforcement action to save historic buildings (3rd ed).

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