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Listed Building Owners Proud to Care for Heritage

  • 93% of owners see their property as important to local character and enjoy owning a slice of England’s history
  • Owners are committed to maintaining their property
  • More needs to be done on guiding owners through the planning process

The owners of England’s listed residential buildings say they feel privileged to be custodians of our heritage. This is according to the Heritage Counts 2015 report published today by Historic England on behalf of England’s leading heritage organisations, who make up the Historic Environment Forum. Heritage Counts 2015 focusses on the people responsible for looking after the local historic environment, two thirds of which is privately owned.

Over 1,000 listed building owners across the country were surveyed for the report. The results reveal that owners are proud to be conserving heritage for the future and enjoy being a part of our collective history. The survey also found that 93% of owners believe their home is very important to the character of the local area, with 88% recognising the importance of the listed building consent process for protecting the special character of their property.

Inforgraphic showing the frequency of when owners carry out regular maintenance on their properties
Infographic of how often owners carry out regular maintenance on their properties, including clearing gutters and painting windows

Caring for heritage

Heritage Counts 2015 demonstrates that owners actively care for their listed homes, with two thirds performing regular maintenance including window repairs and gutter clearing. Owners also say they are committed to investing in their buildings - 35% applied for listed building consent in the past 5 years and around 44% of these had spent or planned to spend £25,000 or more on work. Despite this, owners are concerned about the expense and would appreciate VAT exemption.

Infographic showing the trends in local authority historic environment staff since 2006
Infographic of the trends in local authority historic environment staff since 2006

Consent process and local councils

Half of owners who have applied for Listed Building Consent (LBC) say they have had a good experience of the planning process. But a third said their experience was poor. Owners who feel they are clear on what types of work require LBC are more likely to have a good experience of planning. Those who did not go ahead with their application for LBC seem to be put off by the cost of skilled professionals and the complexity of the planning process.

Since 2012/13, the number of listed building consent applications has grown, whereas all other planning applications have stabilised at lower levels than the peak of 2004/5. This is in the face of further decreases in local authority staff. Since 2006, the number of archaeological specialists has fallen by 23% and the number of conservation specialists has fallen by 35%. The Historic Environment Forum is concerned about future funding cuts to local councils and the impact it could have on protecting our historic places.
The report demonstrates that the heritage sector needs to do more to simplify the planning process and improve awareness through better information.

Infographic showing trends in listed building consent applications. They have steadily increased since 2002
Graph showing that listed building consent applications have steadily increased since 2002

Sir Laurie Magnus, the Chairman of Historic England said:
"A huge number of individuals and organisations are responsible for looking after the extraordinary quality and diversity of England's historic environment. Private owners of listed residential buildings care for the greatest share of our historic fabric. It is therefore particularly encouraging to see the evidence of their commitment to preserving the historic character of their properties and their readiness to cover the costs of regular maintenance. There remains more that can be done to improve the efficiency of the listed building consent system and to support these private owners, particularly at a time of continuing decline in local authority heritage staff. "

John Sell, Chair of the Historic Environment Forum said:
“I am delighted that the research carried out for Heritage Counts this year confirms what many of us have long believed – that owners of historic buildings care deeply about them and want to look after them as well as they possibly can. The lesson to be drawn is that the more good quality advice can be given, the better old buildings will be looked after.”

Next Steps

Learn about Heritage Counts

Find out if your home is listed

Learn about the Historic Environment Forum

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