In the latest Conservation Bulletin, published by English Heritage, there is an interesting contribution by David Fursden, the President of the Country Land and Business Association. An extract is given here.
‘While access to much rural heritage is free, maintaining it is hugely, and increasingly, expensive. Government willingness to fund it through grants is much reduced: Heritage must – wherever possible – earn its keep if it is not to decay. This requires a heritage consent system that allows change. The evidence suggests that the heritage consent system is not working as well as it could.
‘A fundamental problem is conservation philosophy. There are many good conser vation officers who proactively seek solutions, but the CLA believes that too many feel that their job is to protect the historic environment against change, so that redundant buildings decay because they cannot be reused. Some seem to lack an understanding of relative significance, so that controls that would be appropriate for a Grade I building – the top 3 per cent of listed buildings – are applied without discrimination to a Grade II building in the bottom 3 per cent; or they do not fully understand the economic background, demanding that redundant agricultural buildings remain in agricultural use when they no longer have any agricultural purpose, or loading extra costs into an economically marginal conversion so that it has to be abandoned.
‘While legal protection of heritage is necessary; it is also part of the problem, because it can de-motivate owners. Generations of farmers and landowners have made sacrifices to look after historic buildings and ancient trees because of pride of ownership; that has certainly been the case on my small family estate in Devon. Love is a stronger motivator than fear, and being told you must do something takes some of the incentive away, especially if it carries attendant baggage of application forms, demands for management plans, method statements, full archaeological surveys and accredited consultants, often even for minor work. With little grant funding, the listing of buildings has become largely negative for owners.’
David Fursdon, President, Country Land and Business Association
This opinion comes from CA issue 209