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Tackling Neglect NHPP Activity 2B1

Research carried out 2011-2015 about understanding the effects of neglect on England's built heritage. This work was part of the National Heritage Protection Plan.

Grade II listed house in Lordship Lane, Southwark. Dating from 1873, it is an important example of the early use of concrete in construction. Continued neglect has led to serious structural problems.
Grade II listed house in Lordship Lane, Southwark. Dating from 1873, it is an important example of the early use of concrete in construction. Continued neglect has led to serious structural problems.

Scope of the activity

To tackle the serious problem of neglect, we needed to find patterns in how and where neglect happens, and analyse how others- such as the Churches Conservation Trust- can work best to avoid neglect for example, through investment. This provides the evidence we need to build practical partnerships and support networks with others.

Intended protection results

The intended results of the activity were:

  • Understand neglect at the time the research was carried out 
  • Predict how it might affect heritage in the near future
  • Armed with this information, develop a prioritised strategy of how to deal with the impact of neglect

Projects in this activity

Profiling neglect

This project aimed to draw together information from across the Historic Environment about neglect to build up a better picture of why, how and where neglect was happening and what types of heritage were most affected. Some hot spots of neglect were identified through studying data gathered by Heritage at Risk condition surveys. However further analysis will be needed to act on the findings.

Stopping the rot- a revision of guidance

The project updated guidelines for local authorities on how to work with effective enforcement measures to counter neglect. These include:

  • Section 215 notices
  • Urgent Works notices
  • Repairs Notices and
  • Compulsory Purchase orders

A series of local seminars were held to publicise the updates.

Photograph of a stone church looking towards its tower
St Giles' Church at Imber, Wiltshire, is in the care of the Churches Conservation Tust. © Tom Jones

The Churches Conservation Trust approach to investing in maintenance and repair of historic church buildings.

This research was an attempt to explore what it costs to repair and maintain historic church buildings across England, based on the records of the Churches Conservation Trust. You can download the full report on the Churches Conservation Trust to investment work, including case studies, at the end of this section.

What is the Churches Conservation Trust?

The Churches Conservation Trust was founded in 1969 to care for historically and architecturally outstanding Church of England churches that have been closed and are no longer in parochial use. The CCT repairs, maintains and manages such buildings, keeping them open for visitors and developing their community role, alongside occasional acts of worship. Many of them are in poor condition when the CCT takes them over, some with major structural failure. In order to save them so they can continue to be a part of the nation’s heritage the CCT invests in large scale repair programmes and maintenance regimes for the buildings, funded partly by the Church of England, partly by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and partly through its own fundraising activities and the sustained efforts of many local volunteer groups.

What do the records show?

Throughout its work the CCT has maintained good records of the work it has done and the money spent on the 365 buildings throughout England for which it is currently responsible. These records provide a unique body of evidence about the actual costs of keeping historic churches wind and water-tight, accessible to the whole community and in a variety of sustainable uses. Until 2014 this information had not been analysed but a partnership of the Church Commissioners of the Church of England, Historic England and the CCT commissioned work to identify and evaluate the impact of large investment work and make a first attempt to assess the benefits of maintenance and repair projects in these sensitive and often complex historic churches.

What did the research reveal?

  • Investment in a building to achieve a sound building in good repair, rather than ad hoc repair approach results in savings being made on expenditure within 9 years of investment and a 53% saving being made within a 30 year period.
  • Churches in a better state of repair are financially more efficient in their use of utilities.
  • A longer period of ‘neglect’ leads to a higher conservation deficit to a building.
  • Churches in urban areas are more likely to experience expenditure more often and at a critical level.

What does this tell us?

  • The investigation of the CCT’s records is one attempt to provide a constructive response to the question ‘What does it cost to care for an historic place of worship? 
  • Through the case studies, it also offers evidence-based analysis on how and why historic assets may fall into in poor condition or suffer cumulative maintenance problems that lead to major challenges.
  • These insights are important for congregations of all faith groups and denominations using historic buildings as places of worship. We hope that it will help them to understand the value of investment in maintenance and repairs and to be aware of the likely costs in the medium to long term so they can fund raise and budget appropriately.

Links with other NHPP activities

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