By Jessica Cole, Listing Casework Analysis Manager, Strategy and Listing Team, Historic England

How we protect our historic buildings at the point where they are being considered for listing is a topic that will always generate a large amount of debate. Anyone that cares about the historic environment will want to know how we intend to protect it for future generations. It is interesting to note that many of the articles written about interim protection refer to ‘armoury’; as we each go into battle and defend our historic places. What is clear to me from the contributions made on this topic is that it is a collective effort and there is no single solution.

As we know each building or site has its own challenges. A decision on whether a building meets the criteria for listing on a national level involves a range of considerations and is a process that has been developed and refined over many years. David McDonald’s piece on Confessions of a Conservation officer help to remind us of the varying factors at play in each case that arrives and the difficult decisions we face each time a building of interest comes to light. It also reminds us that Building Preservation Notices (BPNs) are nothing new and have previously been used for a number of different structures, including our much loved telephone boxes. A reduction in the number of conservation officers employed by local planning authorities is very likely to be having an impact. This is why we all need to work together to support each other more than ever in the face of numerous challenges. The aim of Historic England’s updated advice note on BPNs was to help stretched local planning authorities make greater use of them. The two-year pilot, for Historic England to support local authorities in those rare cases where a BPN has been served but the final decision is not to list has resulted in costs to the owner, aims to assist further in that.

Two young women standing at the railings to a bridge adjoining church walk in Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire with the river Thames running towards mill house in the background.
Two young women standing at the railings to a bridge adjoining church walk in Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire with the river Thames running towards mill house in the background. Photographer / Artist: John Gay © Historic England AA091850

An additional aim of the pilot is to determine how much of a barrier compensation is when deciding whether or not to serve a BPN, or whether the concerns are greater than the reality. Michael Bullen’s piece from his local authority perspective suggests that the ‘risk of compensation claims is not necessarily as high as is commonly perceived.’

It is clear from the other articles received that questions are being asked as to why we do not have a similar process to Wales. Comparisons with Wales may seem easy, but they are not like-for-like situations. The numbers of buildings we look at each year in England is far greater than those looked at in Wales and even this form of interim protection will not stop the loss of some buildings.

It is important to remember that only a very small number of buildings suffer from some form of pre-emptive damage; most are successfully protected for future generations to enjoy. For the moment, we need to promote the use of the tools we currently have at our disposal. We all have parts to play in identifying threats and working to find a solution which ensures that we do not lose valuable parts of our heritage.

Jessica Cole January 2019
Jessica Cole, Listing Casework Analysis Manager, Strategy and Listing Team, Historic England © Historic England

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