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Government promises better care of historic stock

The government has pledged to clean up its act on the 1800 historic buildings it owns with new guidance that puts sensitive care above sale price.

Culture minister Alan Howarth said finding a viable future for the redundant scheduled monuments belonging to departments or quangos was a big challenge. But it could be met 'if the sensitivity and the will are there.' He pointed to the Royal Naval College in Greenwich recently turned into a university and music campus by Rick Mather Architects and bdp.

The guide advises on good practice on adaptation to ensure long-term and cost-effective service. It recommends that before a decision is made to sell a historic building its potential for adaptation and reuse should be carefully considered; where buildings unavoidably lie empty they should be maintained in a secure, dry and stable condition; for more historic sites it may be advisable to adopt methods of disposal other than open- market sale to increase the chances of appropriate ownership and use.

However, many of the sites such as hospitals and barracks are extensive, and subject to planning constraints, said Howarth. Others such as courts did not lend themselves to alternative uses.

John Thorneycroft, head of the English Heritage government historic building advisory unit, said the 'death knell' should not be sounded for buildings that had outlived their original function.

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