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uPVC windows are killing Conservation Areas

English Heritage has warned that more than 700 of the nation’s conservation areas are under threat from decay or ‘damaging change’ by, among other things, the use of plastic windows

The results from the organisation’s first ever survey of the 9,300 conservation areas in England show that one in seven are blighted by uPVC windows, ‘unsightly’ satellite dishes and ‘unsympathetic’ extensions.

Based on the findings of the survey, English Heritage (EH) has launched a Conservation Areas at Risk campaign to get local councils and residents to tackle the problems ‘before it is too late’.

EH’s chief executive Simon Thurley said: ‘These are difficult economic times but our research shows that conservation areas do not need time-consuming or costly measures, just prioritising as places people cherish, the commitment of the whole council and good-management by residents and councils alike.’

Will Palin of SAVE Britain’s Heritage said: ‘This is a positive and very ambitious initiative from EH – and I hope it will help raise the profile and status of conservation areas in local councils and the general consciousness.

‘So many of our current battles involve unlisted buildings whose only protection is Conservation Area designation, and although the most common problems involve unsympathetic alterations, SAVE also deals frequently with demolition.’

Elsewhere in EH’s annual Heritage at Risk Register there was good news about the amount of listed buildings which are currently under threat.

Since 1999 the number Grade I or Grade II*  buildings in England on the at risk register has dropped from 3.8 percent to 3.1 percent.

Only 969 of the country’s 30,776 historic gems were viewed as under threat.

However the improving figures were not welcomed by Richard Younger-Ross MP, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Heritage. He said: ‘The number of Grade I and Grade II Buildings at risk is still far too high. 

‘Unless the Government implements firm proposals and introduces additional conservation resource to address the shortcomings in the Heritage sector, there is a serious risk that in the next few years more of our precious heritage will face devastating deterioration.’

Top problems in conservation areas

  • Plastic windows and doors (83% of conservation areas affected)
  • Poorly maintained roads and pavements (60%)
  • Street clutter (45%)
  • Loss of front garden walls, fences and hedges (43%)
  • Unsightly satellite dishes (38%)
  • The effects of traffic calming or traffic management (36%)
  • Alterations to the fronts, roofs and chimneys of buildings (34%)
  • Unsympathetic extensions (31%)  

Readers' comments (5)

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  • It seems this was a survey done 'on the cheap', as it relied on local authorities to report themselves. The fact that quarter of them didn't respond means that it's only a very partial picture.

    What is English Heritage (and the government) now going to do to help?

    Local authorities can't shoulder all the burden. Local people are powerless. Current legislation is toothless. Conservation staff are not employed in a number of local authorities.

    It's all very well identifying the problems, but solutions are not going to be simple.

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  • Is it a co-incidence that this report comes out the very day that UNESCO world heritage committee meet and high on the agenda is the state of conservation of numerous UK World Heritage Sites.
    Liverpools Castle Street Conservation area takes in the historic world heritage site and look at what is happening there.


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  • "Elsewhere in EH’s annual Heritage at Risk Register there was good news about the amount of listed buildings which are currently under threat."

    Grade I and II* building are but a fraction of all listed buildings.

    What about all the Grade II listed buildings at risk throughout the country? SAVE compiles a register, but it's probably far from complete. EH doesn't count those.

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  • In the United States, most officially designated preservation areas have specific regulations about the types of windows and modifications that may be installed in locations visible from public streets. Plans for modifications to buildings in historic areas are reviewed when the building permit is applied for. At a minimum, this ensures that wood windows are used in renovation projects. Other issues, like "street clutter" seem a bit too subjective to me.

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