Historic England's Heritage at Risk Programme (HAR) was launched in 2008, as a way of understanding the overall state of England's historic sites. In particular, the programme identifies those sites that are most at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.
As public and private finance remains scarce, it is essential that everyone continues to focus on those heritage assets that are at greatest risk and that offer the best opportunities for positively managed change.
At risk evidence tells communities about the condition of their local neighbourhood; it encourages them to become actively involved in restoring what is precious to them; and it reassures them that any public funding goes to the most needy and urgent cases.
Heritage at Risk in South Tyneside
Since 1998 Historic England have kept a national register of Grade I and II* Listed Buildings, but they it is only recently that they have had the resources to be able to expand the register to include other heritage assets such as Conservation Areas, Registered Parks and Gardens, Registered Battlefields and Scheduled Monuments that are considered to be 'at risk'.
South Tyneside Borough Council has maintained its own Grade II Listed Buildings at Risk Register since 2000 and recently partnered with Historic England and the North of England Civic Trust to deliver an ambitious programme to re-survey the borough's 212 Grade II Listed Buildings with the help of a small army of volunteers. The aims and objectives of the project were to gain a sound understanding of condition and vacancy. The data will now be used to identify possible solutions and strategies to bring at risk and vulnerable properties back into good condition. More detail can be found in the South Tyneside Grade II Listed Buildings at Risk315.46KB report.
There are currently 13 entries in the Grade II Heritage at Risk Register representing 6% of the 212 Grade II Listed Buildings in the Borough. This is a slight increase since the council's last survey in 2007, which identified 10 entries as being at risk. There is no distinct pattern to the type of building or the nature of the threat, but several of the entries relate to boundary walls and the majority are structures which are not capable of beneficial use.
Where buildings are left in an underused and poor condition, there are some powers available to seek to remedy the situation. These include:
Urgent Works Notice
The first step is always to negotiate with owners and offer practical advice before taking any formal action.
A Repairs Notice can be served under Section 48 of the Planning (Listed Buildings & Conservation Areas) Act 1990, only in relation to a listed building.
The Notice requires the building owner to comply with a schedule of works, which can be used to put the building back into the condition as of the date of listing.
The works allow for a much more comprehensive repairs scheme than the Urgent Works Notice.
Once served, the owner has two months to demonstrate that he / she is progressing works. If the council is not convinced of the level of progress on site, the method of enforcing this notice is to make a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO).
The compulsory purchase power is provided under Section 47 of the Planning (Listed Buildings & Conservation Areas) Act 1990. This provides for the compulsory acquisition of a listed building in need of repair, and is usually the last resort to secure a listed building.
It is usual in such cases for the council to identify a development partner, usually a Building Preservation Trust or other such charity, which would receive the property if the CPO was successful, to begin repairs and identify a new use.
Once made, the CPO needs to be confirmed by the Secretary of State, which usually follows a public inquiry where both sides state their case.
Urgent Works Notice
An Urgent Works Notice is served under Section 54 of the Planning (Listed Buildings & Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended, and can be served on a vacant or vacant parts of a listed building where works are urgently necessary for the preservation of a listed building.
In exceptional circumstances there are special powers available to the Secretary of State to authorise the use of these powers to an unlisted building in a conservation area, where the preservation of the building is important for maintaining the character or appearance of the area (Section 76 of the Act). The works that can be implemented include:
Making the building weather tight
Making the building safe from structural collapse
Preventing unauthorised entry, vandalism or theft
The council must serve a notice giving the details of what is required, seven days before it intends to enter to implement the works. There is no appeal against this notice.
Upon completion of the works, under Section 55 of the Act, notice may be served on the owner of the building requiring repayment of the costs incurred during the works to the building. The owner does have a period of 28 days to appeal against this notice, but only, however, on the following grounds:
Some or all of the works were unnecessary
Temporary works have continued for an unreasonable length of time
The amounts were unreasonable
Recovery would cause hardship
The successful involvement of volunteers in the Grade II Buildings at Risk project, and the keenness of many to remain involved in the future has been key to its delivery. If you are interested in helping to maintain, and even expand, the register then please contact the Historic Environment Officer.