Reminder – IHBC NI Branch free networking & AGM: 12 Nov

The IHBC Northern Ireland Branch is hosting a free networking opportunity for members, prospective members & colleagues, on Wednesday 12 November in Clifton House, Belfast, to include a Branch AGM.

For details and booking see IHBC NewsBlog

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VAT stays in the news with Loyd

Loyd Grossman, Chairman of The Heritage Alliance spoke on the BBC this week, calling for the scrapping of VAT charges on repair and maintenance works.

The Heritage Alliance (HA) writes:
The 20% VAT rate on the restoration of old buildings should be scrapped, Loyd Grossman, Chairman of The Heritage Alliance, has claimed speaking on the BBC Daily Politics Show on Wednesday 22nd October.

Speaking after the Prime Ministers questions and using the Ragged School Museum in East London as an example, Loyd Grossman argued that heritage was not a luxury that requires subsidy, but an essential part of our society and economy which justifies investment.

According to research conducted by the Historic Houses Association essential repairs to member houses exceeds £750 million pounds in 2014, up from £390 million in 2009.  Loyd Grossman argued, however, that it was not just big houses that face these costs as 86% of listed buildings are owned by people outside the top income bracket.

During the interview, Loyd Grossman said:  ‘Why can’t the government grasp the value of heritage and do something positive? Get rid of the VAT regime which slaps a full rate of tax on the repair and maintenance of old buildings but levies zero per cent on new-build and demolition. The current system just doesn’t make any sense.’

Like the IHBC, the Heritage Alliance is part of the Cut the VAT coalition, which calls for a reduction in the rate of VAT from 20% to 5% as permitted under EU rules.

IHBC newsblogs archive on VAT and repair

Press release 

View the programme on BBC iPlayer (from 01:13:65)

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Heritage At Risk 2014 registers launched by EH

English Heritage (EH) has launched the regional Heritage at Risk registers across the country this week, with news of successful projects as well as information on sites still considered to be under threat.

EH writes:
Over the past year we have focused much of our effort on assessing listed Places of Worship, visiting those considered to be in poor or very bad condition as a result of local reports. We now know that of the 14,775 listed places of worship in England, 6% (888) are at risk and as such are included on this year’s Register. These additions mean the overall number of sites on the Register has increased to 5,753. However, 575 sites have been removed from the 2013 Register.

National summary

Regional summaries

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City economies and transport links

The Centre for Cities has released a new study into the effect that boosting transportation links might have on northern city region economies.

The Centre for Cities writes:
A new Centre for Cities report, supported by the Department for Transport, singles out improved rail linkages between Manchester and Leeds as the critical first step to turning the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ political rhetoric into reality.  ‘Fast Track to Growth – Transport Priorities for Stronger Cities’ argues that connecting the two biggest and most successful Northern cities first would create an economy of significant scale in the North of England, building a more dynamic and attractive business environment with a better capacity to drive growth and prosperity. This would complement and strengthen current planned investment in the network, such as HS2, and ensure its benefits can be maximised in the long-term.

The report shows how linking cities with faster, more frequent transport systems enables their businesses to collaborate and share knowledge, networks and services. And for workers, these connections provide access to a considerably larger pool of job opportunities, and much greater flexibility in where they can choose to live and work.

Ms Alexandra Jones, CEO, Centre for Cities, saidThe Manchester to Leeds route currently takes almost twice as long to travel as the longer distance between London and Milton Keynes. The capital’s rail connections to neighbouring cities have played an important part in building strong and successful economies across the South East, and the evidence strongly suggests that Manchester and Leeds would benefit enormously from quicker and more frequent connections. This is a critically important, well-overdue upgrade that should be the first stage of delivering on the Government’s ambition to build a Northern powerhouse.’

Centre for Cities report summary &  Press release & Full Report

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Pickles blocks east Yorkshire wind farm

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has turned down an appeal by energy producer RWE Innogy UK Ltd over a six turbine wind farm proposed for a site at Holme-on-Spalding Moor in Yorkshire refused by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, agreeing with the inspector that the wind farm would harm the setting of the Grade 1 listed Howden Minster.

His decision was in line with the recommendation of the planning inspector who held the recovered inquiry.

Pickles’ decision letter said the scheme would have an adverse impact on the landscape which would increase to moderate/major significance because of other consented or proposed turbines.

He also agreed with the inspector that the wind farm would harm the setting of the Grade 1 listed Howden Minster. Pickles concluded that ‘he identified harms are not outweighed by the scheme’s benefits’.

Report & Letter

Search Planning Portal

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DoENI consultation on community planning partners

The Department for the Environment Northern Ireland (DoENI ) has launched a consultation on proposals for mechanisms of community planning delivery with a deadline for responses of 12 December. 

The DoENI writes:
Under local government reform, councils will have a new duty of community planning from 1 April 2015. This involves bringing together all the services and functions that are delivered in a council area and producing a plan that sets out the future direction of that area. The purpose is to improve service delivery for the benefit of citizens.

Northern Ireland’s 11 new councils will lead the process and whilst a wide number of businesses, voluntary organisations, community and other groups will all make vital contributions to community planning, it is beneficial that a number of key public sector organisations are required to participate.

Minister Durkan said: ‘Community Planning will help us work together to improve the social, economic and environmental well being of our council areas. It’s all about partnership working and best using the available resources to make a positive difference to people’s lives.

‘Councils in Scotland, England and Wales have been successfully operating community planning for the last 10 to 15 years. This is now an exciting opportunity for Northern Ireland; one that will give councils, agencies and the wider community a chance to collaborate and be more flexible to the particular needs of their area.’

He added: ‘This consultation will ensure that we have the right organisations around the table so that community planning can start in earnest next April.’

The consultation will close on 12 December 2014.

DoENI consultations

NI Gov article

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Wales: Affordable Housing Rise

Affordable housing statistics released by the Welsh Government this week shows that provision has risen by 18% in the previous year, and further statistics for England also echo growth.

The Welsh Government writes:
The statistics released today show 2,416 affordable homes were delivered during 2013-14, which is an 18 per cent rise on the previous year and brings the total number of additional affordable homes provided so far during this Assembly term to 6,890.

To mark the release of the statistics, the Minister will visit Cwrt Y Bragdy affordable housing development in Cardiff later today, which was completed in August after receiving over £1.3 million of funding support from the Welsh Government.

The Minister will take a tour of the housing development, which is made up of 26 homes and will meet with residents who have recently moved in.  Speaking ahead of the visit, the Minister said:

‘I am delighted we are 69% of the way towards meeting our ambitious affordable homes target with two more years of delivery to go. This is incredibly encouraging.  With the UK Government cuts and welfare reform hitting the people of Wales hard, it is imperative we continue to work hard and to provide more good quality, safe and affordable homes.  These latest statistics are a clear signal of our continued commitment to housing and of the excellent progress made to date.  Despite our progress, we will not rest on our laurels. We will continue to use innovative ways to fulfil our affordable housing needs.’

The Welsh Government is piloting a number of loan schemes to support housing delivery and are reviewing how to make the most of the Social Housing Grant. The Housing Finance Grant has also been expanded, with the Welsh Government tripling its initial investment to provide an estimated 2,000 extra homes and create 5,000 Welsh jobs.

In the recent Draft Budget for 2015-16, the Welsh Government also announced £10 million for the Affordable Housing Land programme, a new pilot scheme which will increase the supply of affordable housing in Wales by boosting the funding options available to local authorities and Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) to acquire land for housing developments.

Today’s figures also show a significant increase in the number of additional affordable homes on public sector land rising to its highest recorded level during 2013-14, with 757 homes being delivered.  The Minister added:

‘A key part of reason why we are on course to meet our target is because of the work of our housing associations. I would like to thank them for their commitment and innovative approaches to delivering the affordable homes much needed across the country.’

IHBC newsblogs on housing

View the statistics for English affordable housing at UK  GOV

Welsh Gov article 

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RTPI Scotland call for evidence on community planning

The RTPI in Scotland is undertaking a research project into spatial planning and community planning and is calling for evidence to support this project, with responses sought by 12 December. 

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) writes:
As one of the key policy issues identified for RTPI Scotland in 2014, Intern Project Officer Sile Hayes is exploring the issue of Spatial Planning and Community Planning through a research project looking at the current disconnect between the processes, outcomes and priorities of community planning and spatial planning, how we can address this, and what the benefits of a greater connection between processes might be for all parties.

We have now issues a formal ‘Call for Evidence’ and ask that any interested party contacts Sile Hayes in response to the questions set below.

A separate survey has been created specifically for Planning Authorities and Community Planning Partnerships across Scotland.

  • What are the opportunities in better linking spatial planning and community planning?
  • What are the barriers to effectively linking spatial planning and community planning?
  • Do you have any good practice examples of spatial and community planning working well together; or of shared outcomes delivered successfully through linking spatial and community planning processes, policies and practices? 

View the call for information and how to submit evidence on the RTPI website

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IHBC welcomes more EH ‘myth-busting’ guidance on windows

EH Traditional Windows publication image

© English Heritage

The Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) has welcomed new guidance by English Heritage (EH) on traditional windows, in particular for its authoritative conclusions on their thermal properties 

Mike Brown, IHBC Chair said: ‘This is a very welcome and thorough piece of research produced by English Heritage and goes a long way towards busting many of the ill-informed myths that surround traditional joinery repairs and, particularly, the oft-claimed merits of double glazing units.  As this research shows, much of the thermal efficiency achieved by double glazing can be had through simpler and cheaper measures, such as draught-proofing, secondary glazing, thermal blinds and curtains.’

The IHBC were privileged to see some of the early research findings at our Annual School a few years back and it is very pleasing to now see the final document published.  It concludes that much of the drive to replace traditional windows is largely misplaced, with consequent, needless damage to our historic environment.’

‘I urge all members to read this important piece of work and to bring it to the attention of owners and agents wherever necessary to persuade them that there is a better alternative to the loss of traditional windows and doors and their replacement with often ungainly and alien double glazing’. 

EH writes:
The loss of traditional windows continues to pose one of the major threats to our heritage and has long been a major concern for English Heritage. With an increasing emphasis being placed on making existing buildings more energy efficient, they are possibly now at greater risk than ever from replacement or unsuitable adaptation. Twenty years ago in a landmark campaign, English Heritage launched a series of guidance notes called Framing Opinions to highlight the increasing loss of traditional windows from older buildings and historic areas. Since then other English Heritage research has continued to highlight their loss. However, our research has not just focused on documenting loss but has also looked at improving their thermal performance and how when retained they can add value to properties.

This new English Heritage guidance covering both timber and metal windows, builds on this research and is aimed at building professionals and property-owners. It sets out to challenge many of the common perceptions about older windows and charts their history over centuries of technical development and fashion. Detailed technical advice is then provided on their maintenance, repair and thermal upgrading as well as on their restoration.

EH full guidance 

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DCLG’s new policies for the siting of waste facilities

New policy has been issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) regarding the siting of waste and recycling facilities, leading to a ‘brownfield first’ preference.

DCLG writes:
The Communities Secretary today (16 October 2014) strengthened the policy on planning for waste facilities such as recycling plants making clear that companies and councils looking to build these should first look for suitable sites and areas on brownfield land.

Today’s new rules also changes the previous policy, and means councils can no longer give special consideration to locational needs, or wider economic benefits the site could bring, over other considerations, as justification for building waste facilities on green belt land.  Mr Pickles said these measures would ensure the green belt could continue to offer a ‘strong defence’ against urban sprawl in our towns and cities, and brings waste into line with the policies on other development, where approval should only be given in very special circumstances, and brownfield sites should be sought in the first instance.

Today’s new policy follows new guidance published earlier this month, which reaffirms how councils should use their local plan, drawing on protections in the National Planning Policy Framework, to protect the green lungs around towns and cities.  Green belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional cases, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan.

This is on top of a range of measures the government has already taken to protect the green belt. These include:

  • abolishing the previous administration’s top-down regional strategies
  • selling surplus brownfield land for redevelopment
  • introducing more flexible planning rights so empty and underused buildings can be brought back into productive use

Local Plans are now at the heart of the reformed, democratic planning system, so councils can decide where development should and shouldn’t go in consultation with local people.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

I am crystal clear that the green belt must be protected from development, so it can continue to offer a strong defence against urban sprawl.

Today’s new rules strengthen these protections further, and ensure that whether it’s new homes, business premises or anything else, developers first look for suitable sites on brownfield land.

Planning Policy for waste

IHBC newsblogs on greenfield land

UK Gov news

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Vic Soc announces top 10 most endangered buildings

The Victorian Society (Vic Soc) has published its survey of the most Endangered Victorian and Edwardian Buildings in England and Wales, highlighting the continuing plight of architecturally important buildings throughout the country despite signs of economic recovery, while also calling for the VAT on repairs to privately owned homes to be cut to 5% so that fewer historic buildings fall victim to neglect.

The Victoria Society writes:
The Victorian Society has revealed the Top Ten Most Endangered Victorian and Edwardian Buildings in England and Wales 2014 following a national appeal for nominations. All the buildings listed are in real risk of being lost if action is not taken in the immediate future. The Society is also calling for the VAT on repairs to privately owned homes to be cut to 5% so that fewer historic buildings fall victim to neglect.

The Victorian Society is the national charity campaigning for the Victorian and Edwardian historic environment.

Chris Costelloe, Director of the Victorian Society, said:

‘Once again the number of nominations from the public has demonstrated that it cares about preserving Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Those we selected for the Top Ten are those in the most urgent need of help now, but they also illustrate the problems faced by many more buildings around the country.

As the economy recovers, it is vital that owners and local authorities redouble their efforts to find new uses for these buildings. Victorian and Edwardian architecture makes a huge contribution to the character of places people live in and love. That the Grade II*-listed All Souls Church in Hastings is facing outright demolition is truly shocking and would set a dangerous precedent. Once these buildings are gone they are lost forever.

The Victorian Society is asking the public for its help it in the battle to save the buildings in the Top Ten. If one of the buildings is local to you, or particularly resonates with you, please consider writing to the relevant local council or paper to demonstrate that the building has public support. You can also help raise awareness by sharing our Top Ten campaign online so that more people are aware of the problems these buildings face.’

The release of the Top Ten Most Endangered Buildings follows the Society’s greatest victory for a number of years when Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, rejected proposals to redevelop much of Smithfield Market in London. This year’s Top Ten includes unusual buildings such as a Grade II*-listed hammerhead crane in Cowes, which gives a glimpse into Cowes’ industrial past, the impressive Coal Exchange in Cardiff and a Grade II*-listed church in Hastings facing potential demolition.

The Top Ten in no particular order are:

  • Hammerhead crane, Cowes, Isle of Wight (1912, Babcock and Wilcox, Grade II*) This giant cantilever crane was installed for the production of naval warships such as HMS Cavalier, which is preserved at Chatham Dockyard. This reminder of Cowes’ industrial past must be saved.
  • Collier Street Baths, Greengate, Salford (1855, Thomas Worthington, Grade II*) Action must be taken to save this rare survival of a handsome early public baths designed by one of Manchester’s best 19th century architects.
  • Former Wesley Methodist Church, Wesley Square, Hartlepool (1871-73, Hill and Swan, Grade II) Owner, Jomast Ltd, must stop allowing this elegant former Methodist Church to deteriorate and fulfil its promise of conversion into a hotel.
  • Coal Exchange, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff (1883, Edwin Seward, Grade II*) Declared unsafe and in imminent danger of collapse by Cardiff Council in 2013 a thorough heritage assessment is urgently needed.
  • All Souls church, Hastings, East Sussex (1890, Sir Arthur Blomfield, Grade II*) The Church Commissioners are considering taking the unusual step of demolishing a Grade II*-listed building without fundamental structural issues.
  • Tonedale Mills, Wellington, Somerset (Continuously enlarged and re-modelled between c.1800 and c.1920, Grade II*) Plans to redevelop much of the site as housing fell through during the recession, but as the housing market recovers, surely a sensitive housing scheme incorporating the mill buildings is now viable?
  • Abney Park Cemetery Chapel, Stoke Newington, Hackney, London (1840, William Hosking, Grade II) The oldest surviving non-denominational chapel in Europe, and Hosking’s only surviving public building, is now a picturesque ruin on the brink of being lost without immediate action.
  • Navigation Colliery, Crumlin, Wales (1907-1911, Partridge Jones and Company, Grade II*/ Grade II) This nationally important colliery complex was a show-pit of the period but plans to turn the site into a community hub may fail without addressing pollution and a collapsing culvert under the access road.
  • Trentham Hall, near Stoke-on-Trent (1840, Sir Charles Barry, Grade II*) Once one of England’s grandest country houses, the majority of the Hall was demolished in 1912 due to pollution in the river Trent. The remains give an idea of the Hall’s former glory but are in a very poor state.
  • Crimean War Monument, Sheffield, Yorkshire & the Humber (1858, G Goldie, Grade II) This tribute to Britain’s war dead has been broken up and placed in storage for over ten years, the column feared lost. Sheffield Council must find it a new home.

The Victorian Society is also calling on the next Government to cut the VAT rate on repair work to privately owned dwellings to 5% (as permitted under EU law). Not only will this help preserve many of the nation’s historic and important buildings, it will be also provide a financial boost for the public when restoring their homes. The Top Ten Buildings at Risk highlights just how important maintenance of historic buildings is.

The Cut the VAT Campaign Coalition, of which the Society is a member as part of the Heritage Alliance, have produced research showing that, over the course of the next Parliament, cutting VAT to 5% on such repair work would provide a total stimulus effect of over £15bn and provide over 42,000 new jobs in the construction industry.

If, despite these benefits, the next Government considers that a VAT reduction for all repairs to privately owned dwellings is too expensive, the Victorian Society considers that a good first step would be to introduce a 5% VAT rate for privately owned dwellings that are listed. This would replace the VAT exemption for approved alterations to listed buildings withdrawn by the Government in 2012 on the basis that it was an ‘incentive to change listed buildings rather than repair them’.

An update on 2013’s Top Ten Most Endangered Buildings:
There was some good news for the Palace Theatre, Swansea when the Council offered a grant of over £70,000 for repair works, subject to the owner obtaining three quotes for having the work carried out. Sadly, the building’s owner has not as yet been able to provide these quotes and the building remains in danger.

There are ongoing negotiations over whether the lease of the Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate may be taken over by by JD Wetherspoon. JD Wetherspoon would refurbish the whole building, but do not require occupancy of it all, so approximately a third would be available to let. The terms of a potential lease have no yet been agreed and no planning application has been submitted.

The Jumbo Water Tower in Colchester was reportedly sold at auction earlier this year to a local poultry farmer who intends to create a rooftop restaurant and flats. No planning application has as yet been lodged.

Negotiations are continuing around St John’s Church, Crawshawbooth, Lancashire which had suffered severe water damage as a result of lead theft. Plans have been put forward to convert the Church into a renewable energy centre with the retention of all fixtures and fittings.

Sheffield Council is currently exploring the possibility of selling Heeley Bank School, Sheffield to buyers who would return the building to use as a school. This would be a happy ending for this rare example of pioneering school architect ER Robson’s work outside London.

Victorian Society news

IHBC Newsblog on Victorian architecture news

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