A common misconception about the role of a heritage consultant is that we visit the most interesting and picturesque heritage sites. Whilst this is occasionally true, a large proportion of our work often requires site visits to unsafe, neglected and abandoned buildings which not only poses a safety issue, but can also be downright spooky and unnerving too. Although I’m not a superstitious person, one can’t help but be on edge and wonder what else might be watching us as we undertake surveys in such ominous places.
It doesn’t help that as part of our site visits, you can often find us knocking and tapping on walls, more reminiscent of a Victorian séance than a building survey. But don’t worry, we’re not trying to awaken anything untoward – just see which walls are stud! Still, if there is such a thing as haunted houses, then you can guarantee that we have seen our fair share.
Although these buildings can be unsettling to work in sometimes, and it can be good fun to joke about paranormal activity, the neglect of historic buildings is a national issue. In response to the growing number of neglected heritage assets Historic England has produced a Heritage at Risk Register which aims to provide an updated snapshot of the critical state of England’s historic places that are most at risk of being lost.
Allowing your historic building fall into decay may have future consequences, too - owners who have been found to have either let their listed property fall into decay or purposefully damage the buildings are in breach of Paragraph 196 of NPPF. As such, this may result in future issues - including fines or prosecution - should you wish to develop the site.
‘Where there is evidence of deliberate neglect of, or damage to, a heritage asset, the deteriorated state of the heritage asset should not be taken into account in any decision.’
Historic England states that:
‘There is no statutory obligation upon the owner of a listed building to keep their property in a good state of repair, although it is usually in their interest to do so. However, local authorities can take action to secure the repair of a listed building when concerned about its continued conservation.’
As disconcerting as it is that some of our nation's finite heritage resources are abandoned or purposefully damaged, Blue Willow Heritage aims to help our clients reach the best possible results for your scheme and the conservation of heritage assets.
Although in some instances (as seen above) damage to the listed buildings is so high that it makes new investors weary, Blue Willow Heritage can help you manage any heritage planning issues which may arise within your scheme so that you need not worry. If you would like to discuss your project or simply need some impartial, no-obligation advice, then please get in touch.