Heritage at Risk

Heritage at Risk

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Heritage at Risk is a collective term applied to 'designated' heritage assets (i.e. those that are protected as Listed Buildings, Scheduled Monuments, etc.) that are at risk as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development, or are vulnerable to becoming so.

In England, an annual Heritage at Risk Register is published by English Heritage
English Heritage
English Heritage . is an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport...

. The survey is used by national and local government, a wide range of individuals and heritage groups to establish the extent of risk and to help assess priorities for action and funding decisions. This Heritage at Risk data is one of the UK government's official statistics
Official statistics
Official statistics are statistics published by government agencies or other public bodies such as international organizations. They provide quantitative or qualitative information on all major areas of citizens' lives, such as economic and social development, living conditions, health, education,...


The generic phrase 'heritage at risk' is also used by a range of organisations to describe historic assets that are not formally protected by the designation
Designation may refer to:* Professional certification* Designation , an official classification determined by a government agency or historical society- See also :* United States Department of Defense aerospace vehicle designation...

 process, including art and canals, but that are in danger of decay or loss.

What is included?

The Heritage at Risk Register covers:
  • Grade I and II* listed buildings (the baseline register is 1999); Grade II listed buildings in London only (the baseline register is 1991)
  • Structural scheduled monuments (base year is 1999) and scheduled monuments (base year is 2009)
  • Registered parks and gardens (base year is 2009)
  • Registered historic battlefields (base year is 2008)
  • Protected wrecks sites
  • Conservation area
    Conservation area
    A conservation areas is a tract of land that has been awarded protected status in order to ensure that natural features, cultural heritage or biota are safeguarded...

    s (base year is 2010).

The national Register is produced as an online database, and as a register for each of the nine English regions.

The site's condition and trends are published for each entry. The Register is accompanied by a summary that provides key statistics and includes:
  • The number of each type of heritage asset that is assessed as at risk.
  • The percentage of each designated asset type at risk.
  • The number of additions and assets removed from the Register each year.

Each entry is given a priority for action, ranging from A: "immediate risk of further rapid deterioration/loss of fabric and no solution agreed", to F: "repair scheme in progress (and where applicable) end user found". It is possible to search the register online—by location, asset type and condition.

Many English planning authorities publish their own 'Heritage at Risk' or 'Buildings at Risk' registers, and several are published on local authority websites,
e.g. Bolsover District Council and Essex County Council.

Origins of the survey

Heritage at Risk initially focussed on buildings. English Heritage developed a methodology for assessing building at risk in the mid-1980s and worked with a number of local planning authorities to carry out surveys of listed buildings to identify which were are risk. Ipswich Borough Council has continued to maintain its buildings at risk register since 1987. SAVE Britain's Heritage (SAVE) has compiled a register of buildings at risk since 1989.

English Heritage published its first Register of Buildings at Risk in London in 1991. It only included listed buildings in London. This was followed by publication of the national Buildings at Risk sample survey in 1992. The Buildings at Risk Register was extended nationally to all Grade I and Grade II* listed buildings and structural scheduled monuments in England in 1998.

This was produced annually by English Heritage
English Heritage
English Heritage . is an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport...

 until 2008, when the scope was extended to include all heritage assets that receive some measure of legal protection through the designation system. Between 2008 and 2010 scheduled monuments, registered parks and gardens, registered battlefields, protected wreck sites and conservation areas (as well as listed buildings) were added to the Register.

Since 2009 each annual report has focussed on a particular category of asset:
  • 2009: Conservation Areas;
  • 2010: Places of Worship;
  • 2011: Industrial Heritage.

Official statistic

The Heritage at Risk data produced by English Heritage is an official statistic. As an official statistic, the methodology for collecting, analysing and publishing the data follows the regulations set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics January 2009. Details of the methodology are published in the English Heritage website.

Key statistics

Key results of 2011 Heritage at Risk research in England:
  • 3.0% (937) Grade I and II* listed buildings are at risk
  • 16.9% (3,339) of England's 19,748 scheduled monuments are at risk
  • 6.4% (103) registered parks and gardens at risk
  • 14.0% (6) registered battlefields are at risk
  • 15.2% (7) protected wreck sites are at risk
  • 6.6% (516) conservation areas surveyed are at risk

For comparison, survey results in 2010 were:
  • 3.1% (968) Grade I and II* listed buildings were at risk
  • 17.2% (3,395) England's 19,731 scheduled monuments were at risk
  • 6.2% (99) registered parks and gardens were at risk
  • 14.0% (6) registered battlefields were at risk
  • 17.4% (8) protected wreck sites were at risk
  • 7.4% (549) conservation areas surveyed were at risk

Other registers

SAVE (an independent group of architects, journalists and planners) publishes a catalogue of buildings at risk (not free), as well as information on its website. The SAVE register includes information on Grade II listed buildings (outside London) throughout England and Wales.

Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland is maintained by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland is an executive non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government 'sponsored' [financed and with oversight] through Historic Scotland, an executive agency of the Scottish Government...

 (RCAHMS) on behalf of Historic Scotland
Historic Scotland
Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government, responsible for historic monuments in Scotland.-Role:As its website states:...

, and provides information on properties of architectural or historic merit throughout the country that are considered to be at risk.

Ulster Architectural Heritage Society has compiled an online Register of Buildings at Risk in Northern Ireland, in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).

Every two years since 1996, the World Monuments Watch produces a list of international cultural heritage around the globe that is at risk from the forces of nature and the impact of social, political, and economic change.

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings
Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings was founded by William Morris, Philip Webb and J.J.Stevenson, and other notable members of the Pre Raphaelite brotherhood, in 1877, to oppose what they saw as the insensitive renovation of ancient buildings then occurring in Victorian...

 (SPAB) publishes a list of historic buildings in need of repair, or a new use, that are for sale or lease. The list is sent out quarterly (along with the SPAB news) to those members who request it. To obtain the list you need to be a member of SPAB.

Australia, SE Europe, the US National Institute for Conservation and the US Galveston Historical Foundation also produce lists of heritage at risk.

Protecting at-risk sites

Different assets have different problems and many are owned privately.

Historic Environment Local Management (HELM) has identified some common themes:
  • Historic assets benefit from sound management and planning policies
  • Public and private owners should be encouraged and given practical guidance, including information about grants for which they may be eligible
  • Some at-risk sites need significant public resources to allow major repairs, stabilise their condition, or change the way in which the land is being used
  • Some assets cannot be reused and the cost of repair cannot always be justified. The long-term solution for these is one of managed decline once the historic significance of the asset has been carefully recorded.

English Heritage is concerned that the progress made over the past decade could soon stall or be reversed due to the current economic climate. This is echoed by well-known historians in England and Europe. Dr Mark Adams from the National Museums Liverpool Field Archaeology Unit and Mick Aston
Mick Aston
Professor Michael Antony 'Mick' Aston is a prominent English archaeologist. As an academic, he has taught at a number of universities across the United Kingdom, and has helped popularise the discipline amongst the British public by appearing as the resident academic on the Channel 4 television...

, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Bristol, wrote a joint letter to the Times calling on the government to save our heritage. They claim that despite contributing an estimated £20.6 billion annually to the economy, the heritage sector is facing disproportionate cuts both locally and nationally.

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