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Conservationists join forces over 'absurd' vat rules

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Heritage groups aim to recruit Lord Rogers to their side in a battle with the government to slash the £195 million vat bill on historic buildings.

The 19 groups, including the National Trust, save Britain's Heritage and the Architectural Heritage Fund, have timed their plea to Lord Rogers to coincide with the launch of a report. It calls on the 17.5 per cent vat rate to be lopped to 5 per cent, which would result in a £92 million loss to the taxman. However this would 'kick start new expenditure on repairs.'

The report, being sent to chancellor Gordon Brown, deputy pm John Prescott and culture secretary Chris Smith, looked at 362 projects on 105 listed buildings. It found the total cost of repair to listed buildings in the uk last year to be almost £6 billion, and that vat on this work cost a further £195 million.

Hilary Weir, secretary of the Architectural Heritage Fund, said she was eager for Lord Rogers to join forces with the heritage groups. 'If this is pushed forward by the historic-buildings lobby itself we would probably make little headway,' she said. 'It is not a powerful enough group. With these other forces we have a better chance. This report exposes the complete absurdity of the current situation.' She pointed out that the Urban Task Force's report went even further, demanding the abolition of vat on historic building work.

John Sell, former chairman of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, said vat on repair was at odds with government policy, not just on the historic sites but sustainable developments, urban regeneration and recycling existing buildings to meet housing needs.

VAT & the Built Heritage, details 0207 925 0199.

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