According to the results of the latest CLA and Historic Houses survey, an astonishing 87% of historic building owners see the UK’s planning system for heritage as a major barrier to decarbonising their property.
The heritage consent system is in place to protect the historic environment, helping to achieve and manage change in historic places. As the latest survey shows however, it’s evident that users find the process of securing consent frustrating, time-consuming, and expensive. There is an alarming level of dissatisfaction for a public service, with almost half of owners (48%) classifying the current system as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ – an increase since Historic England’s survey in 2022 where 44% of respondents found the system at least ‘poor’.
According to CLA and Historic Houses members, which constitute the biggest collection of historic buildings open to the public and business use in England and Wales, only 11% felt heritage protection is working well. Three-quarters (75%) of those asked feel that radical change is needed.
The survey revealed that in the last ten years, 60% of respondents have considered carrying out work to their heritage sites which required planning or listed building consents. However, almost two-thirds (62%) of them did not apply for consent, or withdrew their applications, due to the complexity of navigating a heritage consent system that has been cut drastically in recent years.
Owners of heritage buildings up and down the country want to protect and nurture them – virtually every respondent believed heritage protection is important. Many heritage sites provide jobs and welcome visitors, adding income to the local community. But the under-resourced planning and heritage protection system often does not work well in practice and must evolve to face the demands of today. Government’s Energy Security Strategy promises to help by reducing the planning consent barriers – it is vital that that is implemented soon.