Selection Criteria for Inclusion in the Heritage at Risk Register
In order to be included in the Heritage at Risk Register, sites must be both:
- assessed as being at risk, and
On this page you can find out about the risk assessment types we use when assessing sites for inclusion in the Register. You can also find out about designation.
Risk assessment types
- Building or structure (grade I and II* listed buildings nationally, grade II listed buildings in London, and structural scheduled monuments)
- Place of worship (grade I, II* and II listed buildings)
- Archaeology (scheduled monuments - earthworks and buried archaeology)
- Park and garden (registered parks and gardens)
- Battlefield (registered battlefields)
- Wreck site (protected wreck sites)
- Conservation area (conservation areas as designated by their local planning authority)
Buildings and structures
Buildings or structures (not in use as a public place of worship) considered for inclusion on the Register must be listed grade I or II*, (or grade II in London) or be a structural scheduled monument with upstanding masonry remains. Buildings or structures are assessed for inclusion on the basis of condition and, where applicable, occupancy (or use) reflecting the fact that a building which is occupied is generally less vulnerable than one that is not.
Occupancy (or use) is noted as 'vacant', 'part occupied', 'occupied', 'not applicable', or occasionally, 'unknown'. Many structures fall into the 'not applicable' category as they can be ruins, walls, gates, headstones or boundary stones.
Condition is noted as 'very bad', 'poor', 'fair' or 'good'. The condition of buildings or structures on the Register typically ranges from 'very bad' to 'poor', 'fair' and (occasionally) 'good' reflecting the fact that some buildings or structures capable of use are vulnerable to becoming at risk because they are empty, under-used or face redundancy without a new use to secure their future.
Assessing vulnerability in the case of buildings in fair condition necessarily involves judgement and discretion. A few buildings on the Register are in good condition, having been repaired or mothballed, but a new use or owner is still to be secured.
Buildings or structures are removed from the Register when they are fully repaired/consolidated, and their future secured through either occupation and use, or through the adoption of appropriate management.
Places of worship
Places of worship considered for inclusion on the Register must be listed grade I, II* or II and be used as a public place of worship at least six times a year.
Places of worship are assessed on the basis of condition only. If the place of worship is in 'very bad' or 'poor' condition it is added to the Register.
Once on the Register, places of worship can move through the condition categories (e.g. from very bad to poor, to fair, even good) as repairs are implemented and the condition improves, until they are fully repaired and can be removed from the Register.
Historic England has assessed a proportion of the 14,800 listed places of worship. We are working with the respective denominations to assess the remaining places of worship. Those that are identified as at risk will be included in the Register.
Archaeology assessments cover earthworks and buried archaeology.
The archaeological sites on the Register have been identified as being at risk because of their condition and vulnerability, the trend in their condition, and their likely future vulnerability. A site's condition is expressed in terms of the scale and severity of adverse effects on it, ranging from those with 'extensive significant problems' to others that have only 'minor localised problems'.
Archaeological entries are removed from the Register once sufficient progress has been made to address identified issues, demonstrating a significant reduction in the level of risk.
Parks and gardens
The assessment of parks and gardens starts with an appraisal of the condition and vulnerability of each registered landscape. Steps being taken by owners to address problems are also taken into consideration.
Parks and gardens assessed as being at risk are typically affected by development and neglect. They have frequently been altered by development or are faced with major change.
The original function of these landscapes has often changed; and divided ownership often results in the loss of the cohesive conservation of the historic designs.
Park and garden entries are removed from the Register once plans are put in place to address issues and positive progress is being made.
Battlefields deemed to be at risk of loss of historic significance are included in the Register.
The identified risks and threats come from development pressure - for example, because they lie on urban fringes or are subject to development pressures within the site; arable cultivation, and unregulated metal-detecting. One major impact or a combination of several factors can be enough to raise the risk at a particular site.
Battlefields are removed from the Register when either actual damaging activities are reversed or managed, or threats recede due to effective management planning.
Historic England has audited all designated wreck sites to identify those most at risk based on their current condition, vulnerability and the way they are being managed.
Wrecks are vulnerable to both environmental and human impacts. Risks that contribute to the inclusion on the Register range from unauthorised access to erosion and fishing damage.
The monitoring process ensures that the significance of the site is identified and maintained. In spite of the inherent difficulties in caring for this type of site, careful management must be maintained.
Wrecks are removed from the Register once an appropriate management and monitoring regime is operational.
Historic England has asked every local authority in England to complete (and update as appropriate) a survey of its conservation areas, highlighting current condition, threats and trends. The surveys identify conservation areas that are deteriorating, or are in very bad or poor condition and are not expected to change significantly in the next three years, as being defined as at risk.
The methodology for assessing conservation areas at risk has been refined since the first survey in 2008/2009. The information collated provides a detailed assessment of each conservation area and an overall category for condition, vulnerability and trend is included for each conservation area on the Register.
Conservation areas identified as at risk in 2009, but not reassessed since using the revised methodology, are included on the Register but with limited information.
Conservation areas are removed from the Register once plans have been put in place to address the issues that led to the conservation area being at risk, and once positive progress is being made.
There are four types of national designation. The most commonly known is listing, as in listed buildings. The other types are known as scheduling, registering and protecting. Conservation areas are designated by local planning authorities. The type of designation used is determined by the type of heritage site.
Listing is by far the most commonly encountered type of designation. A listed building (or structure) is one that has been designated as being of special architectural or historic interest. The older and rarer a building is, the more likely it is to be listed. Buildings less than 30 years old are listed only if they are of outstanding quality and under threat.
- Grade I buildings are of exceptional interest, only 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade I
- Grade II* buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest; 5.8% of listed buildings are Grade II*
- Grade II buildings are of special interest; 91.7% of all listed buildings are in this class
We estimate that there are around 500,000 listed buildings on the statutory list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest. Surprisingly the total number of listed buildings is not known, as one single entry on the statutory list sometimes cover a number of individual units, such as a row of terraced houses. Entries on the Heritage at Risk Register reflect how buildings are grouped and recorded on the statutory list.
Structures can occasionally be dual designated (both listed as buildings and scheduled as monuments). In such cases, scheduling controls take precedence.
Scheduled monuments include single archaeological sites and complex archaeological landscapes. 19,954 examples have been designated because of their national importance.
Scheduled monuments are not graded. They cover human activity from the prehistoric era, such as burial mounds, to 20th-century military and industrial remains. For the millennia before written history, archaeology is the only testament to innumerable generations of people of whom there is no other record.
The later 20th-century saw unprecedented changes to the landscape. As a result, types of historic site that once were commonplace began to become rare. Those that survive often represent just small islands of what once characterised broad sweeps of our towns and countryside.
Although protected by law, scheduled monuments are still at risk from a wide range of processes and intense pressures outside of the planning system. These include damage from cultivation, forestry and - often most seriously of all - wholly natural processes such as scrub growth, animal burrowing and erosion.
Registered parks and gardens
There are 1,700 designed landscapes on the current Historic England Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. These registered landscapes are graded I, II* or II, and include private gardens, public parks and cemeteries, rural parkland and other green spaces. They are valued for their design and cultural importance, and are distinct from natural heritage designations.
Inclusion on the Historic England Register of Historic Parks and Gardens brings no additional statutory controls, but there is a clear presumption in favour of upholding their significance in government planning guidance. Local authorities are required to consult Historic England on applications affecting sites registered as grade I or II* and the Garden History Society on sites of all grades.
Historic England's Register of Historic Battlefields was set up in 1995, and is our youngest category of designation. Its aim is to protect and promote those sites where history was made through conflict. They range from the Battle of Maldon (991) to Sedgemoor (1685): almost half date from the period of the civil wars in the mid-17th century.
These special places, where thousands were often killed, deserve our recognition and respect. Recently, additions have been made to the Register of Historic Battlefields for the first time since its creation. There are currently 47 registered battlefields.
Protection is needed to prevent encroachment through inappropriate development, or insensitive (and damaging) metal detecting, which can permanently alter the archaeological record. As with registered parks and gardens, there is a clear presumption in favour of protecting registered battlefields in Government planning policy.
Protected wreck sites
England’s 57 protected wreck sites represent a tiny proportion of the 33,000 or so pre-1945 wrecks and recorded casualties that are known to lie in the territorial waters.
Wreck sites can be of importance for different reasons: the distinctive design or construction of a ship, the story it can tell about its past, its association with notable people or events and its cargo.
The Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 empowers the appropriate Secretary of State to designate a restricted area around a vessel to protect it or its contents from unauthorised interference, and Historic England administers the attendant licensing scheme for divers seeking access.
Conservation areas are designated by local authorities. These are areas of particular architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance. For more than 40 years conservation areas have proved a highly effective mechanism for managing change on an area-wide basis.
There are currently 9,970 conservation areas in England including town and city centres, suburbs, industrial areas, rural landscapes, cemeteries and residential areas.