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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 over time. This helps us to understand why buildings or structures are at risk and how to improve their condition.

The following buildings and structures can be included on the Heritage at Risk Register:

  • 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

There are currently 1,090 buildings and structures on the Register. They exist in a variety of forms, ranging from a medieval timber-framed hall in Manchester to a 1950s concrete sculpture in west London.

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. These often present the biggest challenges and hardest problems to solve. 

Interior view of the burnt roof timbers at Wythenshawe Hall, Wythenshawe Park, Manchester, England
Grade II* listed Wythenshawe Hall is one of Manchester’s last surviving timber framed buildings. We placed this site on the Register following a major fire in March 2016. We have worked proactively to support the assessment of damage, undertaking remedial works and planning for the future reuse of the Hall. © Historic England

Our long term trend data continues to show a steady decline in the number of buildings and structures at risk. This year we have tackled a further six buildings and structures included on our very first Register. This means that 61% of the original 1,428 entries on the 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

We add new entries to the Register every year, which is why the overall number of buildings and structures at risk has only fallen to 1,090 from 1,428.

Over half (54%) of the buildings or structures on the Register are not capable of economic use. From medieval ruins to redundant bridges and cemetery monuments, 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.

 

Members of a larger team of people championing and preserving Brandy Bottom, South Gloucestershire, which forms part of the wider Bristol Coalfied.
Brandy Bottom, Bristol is a rare example of the remains of a complete 19th century steam powered colliery. Derelict since its closure in 1936, we added the site to the Register in 2012. Volunteers from the Avon Industrial Buildings Trust (AIBT) are well on the way to improving the condition of the site with grant assistance from Historic England, to secure its future. © Historic England

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
  • Supporting local authorities to use their legal powers to secure repairs, particularly given the ongoing decline in local authority resources
  • 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 continue as challenges in 2016.

We're exploring ways we can help local authorities tackle heritage at risk and collect information on Grade II listed buildings. Historic England provides bespoke advice to councils, and we can also offer grants to support the cost of underwriting action. As a result, we are starting to see tools such as urgent works notices used with greater confidence. This support will continue to be a priority for us. 

View of Snowdon Aviary, ZSL London Zoo, with canal boat in background, London
Grade II* listed Snowdon Aviary is a much-loved landmark in London Zoo. This pioneering structure was designed by Lord Snowdon and opened in 1965. This structure was Britain’s first walk-through aviary and its aluminium frame was an impressive feat of engineering. Fifty years on the aviary is showing signs of its age and has been added to the 2016 Register. Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund will finance much needed repairs. © Historic England
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