The listing process has ensured some of England’s most special and distinctive historic buildings have been protected. However, the process which begun in the post-war era, both nationally and locally, was never completed and many buildings that are important locally have gone unrecognised and are not protected from development.
The national listing process provides statutory protection to around 500,000 buildings across England. Where buildings are included on local heritage lists (as non-designated heritage assets), they are also better protected from development under the planning system. Until now, local lists have been the domain of local planning authorities, yet only around 50% of authorities have such lists and where they do, they are often out of date and incomplete.
We intend to change this. Protecting the historic environment must be a key function of the planning system. Today, the government is taking action to address this issue and encourage greater listings.
As a first step, I have announced the most ambitious new heritage conservation campaign since the 1980s, with the ambition of significantly increasing the number of historic buildings protected from development. This will start with 10 English counties, supporting them to complete their local lists. It will involve local people nominating the buildings and community assets they cherish, which will be protected for future generations. The government will back the campaign with £700,000 of investment, which will give counties the tools, funding and expertise they need to list and protect, what could be, thousands more buildings across England.
To support this vital work, the government will appoint an independent local heritage adviser. They will boost conservation efforts through driving greater engagement with the local communities and heritage groups. This independent heritage advisor will also work with Historic England to identify the 10 counties who are home to many historic buildings that are not yet protected and would most benefit from the additional listings.
To involve the public in the national effort, I will contact all parishes to emphasise the importance and benefits of listing historic buildings to protect them from development and ask them to nominate buildings. To further this work, Historic England will run a national campaign in Spring 2020 on “Local Identity”. This will involve a season of events to inspire connection with local places, raise awareness of locally listing historic buildings and get the nation talking about what defines our built heritage.
Finally, building on the £95 million fund announced in September by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to help unlock the economic potential of 69 high street Heritage Action Zones across England, my department will also be working with Historic England to support local communities to identify important buildings in these action zones and will consider which of these should be recommended to the Culture Secretary for inclusion in the national list.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords