Scaffolding and a conservator working on a historic building

Conservator Alison Hobbs at St Peter's Church, Castle Park, Bristol. © Historic England DP248588
Conservator Alison Hobbs at St Peter's Church, Castle Park, Bristol. © Historic England DP248588

Historic England response to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s report Living with Beauty

We welcome the Commission's aim to sustain and create beautiful, thriving places for us all to live and work in. The importance of good design, place-making and giving local people a greater say in how their neighbourhoods develop are stressed throughout the report. These principles lie at the heart of Historic England's work, demonstrated by our High Streets Heritage Action Zones programme.

As the report highlights, heritage is an important part of what makes places special and distinctive. Preserving local character not only leads to better and more beautiful places, but the recycling and reuse of historic buildings also makes a significant contribution to combatting the effects of climate change. The construction industry and buildings are responsible for 40% of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions, whilst new construction accounts for 26% of the world's plastic consumption. The report rightly emphasises both the need to recycle buildings and that reducing VAT for repairing and maintaining existing buildings will help to achieve this. The heritage sector has long argued that the current application of VAT is a disincentive for the custodians of our historic environment to invest in and care for much loved buildings, so we particularly support the report's call for a change to VAT rules.

We agree the use of Design Codes in a planning context needs further exploration, and we are already looking at how they might help create better developments in historic places.

We will work with government, the construction industry, property owners and heritage and community organisations to take forward the creative ideas and recommendations made in this report, to ensure we really do build better places for people today and in the future. 

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