If you’re renovating a listed building, there’s a strong chance that you’ve come up against listed building permissions issues. If that’s the case, then you’ll certainly have heard about English Heritage. But who are they, what’s their function and from whom do they get their power? Well, to answer any lingering questions you might have about the organisation, we’ve decided to put together this brief summary of English Heritage’s role in the UK planning system and in the wider UK protection system.
English Heritage was established in 1983 as an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government. In practice, this refers to an institution set up by and paid for by the government, but which the government has no control over. English Heritage does consult with the government on all matters relating to the identification and preservation of all aspects of English culture. As such, English Heritage is charged with a number of duties. Its remit includes:
- Handing out grants to national and local organisations in the effort of conserving historical buildings, monuments and landmarks. In 2010/2011 alone English Heritage handed out almost £35 million in such grants.
- Advising government about which English heritage assets are of particular national importance and should be protected by designation.
- Directly managing the nation’s collection of photographs, monuments, archive records and sites since that the government has taken into its care since it began doing so in the 1880s.
- Managing the blue plaque (buildings of cultural importance) scheme in London
- Advising local planning authorities on changes to the most important parts of heritage buildings.
- Consulting and collaborating with other heritage bodies, on both local and national levels.
- Providing training for those working within the conservation and heritage areas alongside advice and guidance for those looking to renovate a historic building themselves. In 2009 alone English Heritage trained around 2,500 professionals who now work in the wider conservation sector.
- Commissioning and conducting valuable archaeological research on behalf of the nation.
- Publishing the ‘Heritage Counts’ and ‘Heritage at Risk’ papers which are the annual research surveys into the overall health of England’s heritage.
- Writing and maintaining the register of listed buildings, scheduled monuments, conservation areas, registered battlefields and protected gardens.
It’s that last point which will interest most homeowners who live in listed buildings. If you house has been listed (the number currently stands at 374,081) that means any alterations you want to make to the house, even replacing sliding sash windows, have to be run through the local planning authority and English Heritage. Whilst this might sound like an unnecessary hassle for only a small change, English Heritage’s role is vital in ensuring that the beautiful, historic homes of this nation are best prepared. They operate a ‘better safe than sorry’ policy that means little changes are picked up and scrutinised, but big changes to our historic like those that happened in the post war years simply cannot happen again.
If you have any further questions relating to English Heritage, the body are more than happy to field any questions from the public about who they are and how they operate.