Thousands of listed buildings under threat from cash cuts

Thousands of magnificent listed buildings and sites are in a state of disrepair despite evidence that they enhance cultural life and boost the economy.

Thousands of magnificent listed buildings and sites are in a state of disrepair despite evidence that they enhance cultural life and boost the economy.

Heritage Counts 2004, an English Heritage report published yesterday, found more than 17,000 listed buildings, parks and cemeteries were at risk of decay, including 70 under government ownership.

Sir Neil Cossons, chairman of English Heritage, urged the Government to give heritage "a central place" in its plans. He warned ministers: "If you sideline heritage you sideline the nation's soul."

Steve Thurley, the body's chief executive, said English Heritage faced a £13m cut in funding by the Department of Media and Culture, although it added it was too early to assess how this would affect heritage sites.

"The Department of Culture has not been able to give English Heritage the money that we feel we deserve over the next three years. It will mean a £13m cut for us in real terms, coming on top of the last spending round which was a £19m cut," he said.

The highest percentage of damage lies in the north of England, research found. Previously known figures of decaying listed buildings were based on a register which only included Grade I and Grade II* buildings, even though Grade II buildings represent 92 per cent of listed properties.

There are roughly 372,000 listed buildings in England, of which 8 per cent are listed Grade I and Grade II*, those that are deemed to be of outstanding national importance. Of these, 1,058 are deemed at risk of neglect and decay.

Though some Grade II sites are owned by local authorities, the majority are private and quite literally falling apart.

The Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage provide a certain amount of funding for repairs to buildings listed Grade I or Grade II*, while owners of Grade II buildings are largely left to pay for expensive repair works themselves.

It is the responsibility of local authorities to keep records of the historic buildings in their area yet only half of all councils have a "buildings at risk" register and many of them are several years old, the report revealed.

It also found that funding is a major cause for concern. The amount of public subsidy needed to bring all Grade I and II* buildings into good repair is estimated to be around £400m.

Two-thirds of all listed properties are privately owned yet the cost of upkeep for a listed building is far higher than for a non-listed house.

Timothy Cantell, who lives in a Georgian terraced house in Bath with his wife and two teenage children, said: "You need to use the right materials. For example, if you are re-doing the windows you can't go down to B&Q and get an aluminium frame." Grants from English Heritage, one of the few sources private owners can get help for repairing historic buildings, have been declining in real terms for the last five years.

Almost two-thirds of public funds for historic buildings come from the Heritage Lottery Fund, but the research said that this reliance could be dangerous. The economic benefits cathedrals have been able to deliver across the nation were assessed for the first time.

Researchers said that England's Anglican cathedrals attracted five million more people than the London Eye and almost twice as many as the British Museum.

HERITAGE IN DECAY

Garrison Church of St George, in Woolwich, London Magnificent in its heyday, the Grade II listed building now stands as a roofless ruin following bomb damage in 1944. The fragmented ruins hold a surviving mosaic but much of the original interior lies in bits.

Built in 1863 after the Crimean War, to the Italianate designs of Thomas Wyatt, it includes memorials to artillery officers who died in the conflict. Originally, it had a galleried interior with a high-pitched roof with neo-Byzantine pulpit and apse at the East end.

Ferney Hall A Grade II country house in Shropshire, has not been lived in for 50 years and is in a state of disrepair. When bought earlier this year, the owners found the ground floor was covered in rubble from the roof, the staircase had disintegrated, and an enormous tree had grown its roots in the hallway. The owners will need to spend another £1m on repairs to move in.

1 Lyndhurst Terrace, Camden, London The dilapidated condition means it has been left vacant for some time. It comprises a couple of Grade II* listed semi-detached houses built around 1864-5. Designed by John Burlison and the stained-glass manufacturers Alfred Bell of Clayton and Bell. Converted to one house in 1868 and divided again around 1895.

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