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Buildings and Structures at Risk

Historic England has long been recording the condition of our built heritage. With information going back to 1999 we can track trends in risk over time. This helps us to understand the reasons why buildings or structures are at risk and work out ways of improving their condition.

There are currently 1,101 buildings and structures on the Register. Buildings and structures are:

  • Grade I and II* listed buildings not in use as places of worship
  • Grade II listed buildings in London not in use as places of worship
  • Scheduled monuments with above ground structural remains

Buildings or structures are assessed for inclusion on the Register on the basis of condition and occupancy or use.

Their condition can usually be improved by finding imaginative new uses, inspirational owners, alternative funding streams or new partners. However, not all buildings or structures are capable of being used and these often present the biggest challenges and hardest problems to solve. 

The ruins of Walsingham Priory
Walsingham Priory, a house of Augustinian Canons was founded in the 12th century in Norfolk. The scheduled ruins, which in places stand to full height, are located in the grounds of a farmhouse. For private owners, the care and repair of such a large structure presents a significant challenge. Conservation has been funded by Natural England under Higher Level Stewardship.

Our long term trend data shows a steady decline in the number of buildings and structures at risk. 61% of the original 1,428 entries on the baseline 1999 Register have now been removed.

The Register really works to focus our efforts, the attention of the public, investors and other stakeholders on the most deserving cases.

The current situation

New entries are added to the Register every year so that the overall number of buildings and structures at risk has only fallen to 1,101 from 1,428.

Over half (55%) of the buildings or structures on the Register are not capable of economic use. From medieval ruins to redundant bridges and mausoleums, these national treasures lack an economic incentive for owners to care for them. In these circumstances our grants and those of our partners are critical.

The interior and exterior of the Fusing Hut at RAF Bicester
RAF Bicester is the best preserved of the bomber bases constructed as part of the expansion of the RAF after 1923. The Fusing Hut, part of the Southern Bomb Store complex, is just one of a number of structures on the site which present challenges for both conservation and future use.

For those buildings and structures which are capable of beneficial use Historic England collects information on the 'conservation deficit'. This is the funding gap between the cost of repairs and the end value of a building.

The conservation deficit has increased significantly since 2012 and now stands at £475 million. This means that only 14% of buildings and structures on the Register are economically viable to repair.

The challenge ahead

Our big challenges are:

  • Finding ways to bridge the funding gap for buildings and structures which are capable of use but which aren't currently economically viable
  • Finding solutions for buildings and structures that are not capable of beneficial use
  • Understanding the condition of grade II listed buildings not eligible for inclusion on our Register

We prioritise our grants to meet these challenges but partnership is also critical in delivering solutions. Local authorities, Natural England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, charitable trusts, private investors and developers are key partners.

The on-going decline in the resources of local authorities and the change in funding priorities for Natural England are challenges in 2015.

We're exploring ways we can help local authorities tackle heritage at risk and collect information on grade II listed buildings. Training in enforcement of repairs provided by our Heritage at Risk Solicitor for local authority staff and Councillors is one approach that has been welcomed.

The former Curzon Street Station building
The former Curzon Street Station building was the Birmingham terminus of Stephenson's railway line from London Euston. Empty and unused, it is prone to vandalism and decay. It stands on land set aside for High Speed 2. Interim use by HS2 could save the building.
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Heritage at Risk Team

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