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What is the Heritage at Risk Programme?

The Heritage at Risk Programme (HAR) helps us understand the overall state of England's historic sites. Launched in 2008, the programme identifies those sites that are most at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.

Heritage at Risk

Every year Historic England updates the Heritage at Risk Register. The end result is a dynamic picture of the sites most at risk and most in need of safeguarding for the future.

The important process of checking the condition of our heritage goes back more than two decades to the birth of the Buildings at Risk survey. The method has since been widened to include other types of historic places (heritage assets). The Register now includes archaeological sites, conservation areas, registered parks and gardens, registered battlefields, and protected shipwrecks.


Heritage at Risk 2014 is the most comprehensive survey to date. It records listed buildings, places of worship, scheduled monuments, industrial sites, conservation areas, parks and gardens, protected wrecks and battlefields that are at risk and in need of rescue.

Overall there has been a reduction in the number of sites on the Register. However, 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 improves 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.

Based on local reports, we visited those considered to be in poor or very bad condition. We now know that of the 14,775 listed places of worship in England, 6% (887) are at risk. This is fewer than expected but congregations face a big challenge to bring these buildings back into a good condition. A combination of failing roofs, broken gutters and downpipes and damage to high level stonework are common problems. Most places of worship suffer from at least two of these problems.

We 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.

Dalton Mills, Keighley, West Yorkshire
Dalton Mills in Keighley, West Yorkshire, suffered from two major fires in 2011 and 2013. Last year, the building was purchased by a new owner determined to save it. Part of the site is already renovated and nearly fully let, and there is strong interest from businesses wishing to lease space in the other buildings.

Why is it important?

People regularly say how much the historic character of where they live, work and play contributes to their lives. As public and private finance remains scarce, we need to focus on the heritage assets that are at greatest risk and that offer the best opportunities for positive development.  

At risk evidence tells communities about the condition of their local neighbourhood. It encourages people to become actively involved in restoring what is precious to them. It also 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 historic sites on the 1999 Register have since had their future secured.

Regularly reviewing and updating our assessments of heritage assets allows us to pinpoint trends. We then 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, Historic England also does social and economic research to understand the value of heritage.