Headlines: December 7th, 2006



Local authorities are being issued with new guidance to assist them in taking enforcement action to protect Britain’s most historic and significant buildings. The Best Practice Guidance Note on Listed Building Prosecutions, is addressed principally to local conservation and planning officers in an effort to increase their awareness of their powers.

A study commissioned by the Government showed that many local authorities did not have a dedicated heritage enforcement officer because of the low number of cases they had to deal with. It also found planning lawyers might also not have specific expertise in heritage cases, leading to inconsistency in investigations. The guidance reminds councils of the powers held by them and other prosecuting bodies as part of the listed building enforcement regime.

Planning Minister Baroness Andrews, who launched the report with English Heritage Chairman Sir Neil Cossons, said the country’s historic environment was a unique and valuable resource, which had to be protected. It drove a real sense of identity in places, she said, adding, “Councils already have the powers to protect listed buildings, but some are better than others at taking enforcement action.”

Sir Neil Cossons welcomed the publication which, he said, would help local authorities to deal with the minority of cases where owners were damaging historic buildings by deliberately allowing them to fall into disrepair or carrying out illegal alterations. He thought the guidance and support from English Heritage would give local authorities confidence to deal with those problems swiftly and effectively and to work with property owners to find ways to safeguard the future of important buildings.