Exploring how business owners and operators based in historic buildings feel about where they work.
Businesses Benefit from Listed Buildings
Business owners and operators based in listed buildings say they benefit from their historic premises.
More than 500 businesses from across the country were polled as part of the Survey of Listed Building Owners 2018, sponsored by specialist insurer Ecclesiastical.
The results found that 85% of businesses operating in historic buildings express satisfaction with where they work.
Hospitality sector reports the biggest boost
Nearly two thirds - 62% - of all respondents felt trading from a listed building enhanced the business, with those in the hospitality sector the most positive at 71%.
More than 500 businesses in sectors including retail, hotels, food and drink, as well as professional, technology and administration were surveyed. The sample spanned those who own and rent premises, and chains as well as independent businesses.
Those in the hospitality sector were also most likely to cite a direct commercial impact derived from operating out of historic buildings – with respondents highlighting the importance of the beauty and atmosphere of their premises.
The value of characterful buildings
The external appearance of the listed building and its local context were cited as the top benefits of trading from a historic building.
Owners and operators said their listed buildings provide an attractive exterior that gives a positive first impression to their clients and customers.
The responses show businesses appreciate a historic streetscape with a unique local character can attract customers and boost footfall. They understand the valuable role their own individual building plays as part of the wider environment.
…people come down this street, they come to Whitby, they come to the area because of the history, the heritage, it’s all wrapped up in a bigger parcel, it’s not so much the shop. Business operator”
Historic England has long championed the idea that well maintained historic high streets and townscapes can bring great advantages to local businesses, as well as the community at large.
Studies demonstrate that investment in the historic fabric of towns and cities brings economic and environmental benefits making places more attractive to businesses and giving local people a sense of pride about their area, which is the rationale behind the government’s recent pledge of £40 million to revive historic high streets around the country.
Many respondents to the survey cited the strong sense of community that exists amongst businesses who sense they work in a well-loved spot, with added advantages linked to the fact that these special places are often found in the most central locations.
Challenges of trading from a listed building
While for most the positives for working out of a historical building outweigh the negatives, businesses did identify some drawbacks. 42% of the sample identified restrictions on extending their listed premises as an issue.
Businesses highlighted their concerns around disabled access, with many expressing their desire to facilitate better access but finding the nature of their building, and in some cases planning restrictions, a frustration. 40% of the sample highlighted poor disabled access as a major issue.
Many businesses have responded creatively, finding solutions with portable ramps, or separate entrances and working in collaboration with neighbours to provide the access and facilities they need.
Historic England recognises the need for clear information in this area and has published practical advice and guidance on how to make historic buildings accessible. Historic England has found that with thoughtful and effective design, a way can be found around almost any barrier.
Other concerns relate to operating in city or town centre locations where access and parking is often restricted. Some businesses appealed to local authorities to consider their needs when setting parking arrangements.
Business also cited the challenge of quirky internal layouts, and highlighted how important a supportive landlord is when it comes to proactive maintenance, with local authority landlords coming in for some criticism.
Listed Building Consent
Drawing on the responses of around 30% of the sample who had sought listed building consent, results reveal the positive news that over half of respondents felt the listed building consent process helped them make changes and avoid damaging the significance of the building.
Nearly half of those polled reported that the process helped them understand what was important about the building. Responses revealed that businesses would value more help from local authorities, clear language and consistent advice.