Heritage authorities ‘hopelessly overstretched’

After Exeter, Sidmouth has the most Grade I and II buildings in Devon:


Bath House

Bath House
Early 19th Century building on The Esplanade. Grade II listed – see LinkExternal link.
© Copyright Ian Capper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


See the Vision Group’s dedicated pages: Built Heritage


But even more limited resources mean they will not necessarily get the protection they need, as reported in the Architects’ Journal:


Weekend roundup: Built heritage fails to make the grade

Simon Aldous’s take on the big architectural stories of the week: Historic England snubs Grade II-listed buildings 

An exhibition opening at London’s Imperial War Museum yesterday, What Remains, examines how a country’s cultural heritage is often deliberately targeted in conflict.  As well as recent destruction by Islamic State and the Taliban, it also documents the Baedeker Raids during the Second World War, when German bombers used travel guides of Britain as a checklist of which buildings to set out to destroy.

But a latterday foreign aggressor may be saved the effort by the government’s cumulative funding cuts to its heritage protection body, Historic England.

Adopting an interesting turn of phrase, Historic England says it has ‘raised the bar’ on the type of planning applications for which it will be offering advice. Which in practice seems to mean it won’t be giving assistance to local authorities determining most planning applications affecting Grade II-listed buildings.

‘We prioritise buildings listed at Grades I and II* on account of their greater significance,’ it said.  Such a policy certainly reduces the body’s workload since, according to Historic England, 91.7 per cent of all listed buildings are Grade II.

Twentieth Century Society director Catherine Croft acknowledged that Historic England had suffered budget cuts and was ‘hopelessly overstretched’ but made the point that this was happening at the same time that conservation jobs were being axed by local authorities as they struggled to cope with severely reduced funding.

The result was ‘an acute shortage of unbiased expert advice on how to treat historic buildings,’ she said. ‘Without more government funding at national and local levels, our heritage will be irreparably damaged.’

Her views were echoed by Peter Stewart, an adviser on the historic environment: ‘Heritage experts within local planning authorities can be overruled by their colleagues,’ he said. ‘Historic England is an independent and national organisation, so it has more authority, and it is harder for officers and decision-makers to ignore.’

Weekend roundup: Built heritage fails to make the grade | Opinion …

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