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The government has announced a new ‘heritage preservation campaign’ which will see the public nominate local heritage buildings across England to receive extra protection. Head of Rural, David Merton, looks at the impact this could have on asset owners.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick’s announcement of a new heritage preservation campaign could have mixed consequences. Local people across England will be able to nominate heritage assets which they believe to be important in their area, and those assets could then become locally listed, giving them more protection against alterations.

However, owners of these assets could find it a lot harder to maintain and improve them in the future if a new layer of protection is added. If a building is locally listed, it means that listing has to be taken into consideration by a planning committee judging whether to grant permission for any changes to the asset. Although this protection is not as strong as listed building status, it is still another hurdle that owners wishing to make changes to their assets will have to overcome.

It is also worth pointing out that local listing protection does not just apply to buildings – it could also apply to landscapes or archaeological sites. Ten counties in England are set to receive a share of £700,000 to fund heritage experts to help with this process of nominating assets. But it remains to be seen which assets will be affected by this new policy. And it is unknown how much consultation there will be with asset owners. If an asset is nominated to be listed, does the owner have a say in the final decision? Or do they just have to accept it? Many owners may not want their assets to be locally listed at all.

While preserving our country’s heritage is obviously important, a balance is needed between protecting what we have and allowing property to improve and evolve. Effective management over generations has allowed these great buildings and estates, which are loved by so many people, to have lasted as long as they have. Bringing in legislation which makes asset management more difficult could actually be more of a curse to our great properties than a blessing.

We will continue to monitor the government’s plans and will update and advise clients once more details are announced.

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