Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing has just announced new plans to protect England’s heritage homes and buildings in what has been described as England’s most ambitious heritage preservation campaign in 40 years.

The new plans give the public the power to choose which buildings are significant or important, by allowing them to nominate buildings that reflect the culture and identity of the local area, with the support from a team of heritage experts.

Every local authority across England will be asked to create a list of buildings that are considered to hold significant historical and cultural value within their local area, in new measures to ensure that local landmarks remain preserved and acknowledged.

10 of the 48 English counties considered most in need will also have access £700,000 in funding to help them identify areas which they feel should be protected. In addition to this, Historic England will be launching a national campaign to get the country talking about their national identity, what defines our heritage and why it needs preserving.

Every parish council in England will be contacted to make sure they are recognising and conserving any buildings which have played a significant role in their local history and may need local support or preservation.

Although these plans have just been announced, some areas are already blazing a trail to conserve England’s rich heritage. For example, in Lee-on-the-Solent, a Second World War Naval site has been sympathetically redeveloped into modern housing, rather than being flattened and built over like so many other historic buildings which have already been lost. Jenrick’s new measures mean that all councils will be encouraged to follow this example, by consulting with the public and taking steps to protect their local historic homes and monuments.

On top of the new measures, the government will also be appointing a ‘local heritage champion’ to lead the campaign and encourage local councils to explore their heritage and invest in conservation.

Speaking about the new plans, Jenrick acknowledges that they are ambitious:

“I’ve launched the most ambitious heritage preservation campaign for decades. This will empower local people to protect thousands of historic buildings and preserve them for future generations. Getting more buildings locally listed isn’t just about keeping a building intact, it keeps a community’s identity thriving,

“Protecting the historic environment must be a key function of the planning system. All local planning authorities must play a far more proactive role in supporting local communities and heritage groups to identify and to protect more historic buildings.

“Today, there is more recognition than ever that we must be building to last. Research shows that the construction, demolition and excavation of old homes generates around three fifths of total UK non-hazardous waste every year, which is a staggering figure.

“For the country to cut its carbon footprint, drive sustainability and meet our net-zero targets, all of us, in industry and in Government, have a responsibility to promote the re-use of existing buildings.

“The ill-fated programme of demolition and destruction pursued by Governments of the past resulted in thousands of well-built, pre-1919 terrace houses, for example, being needlessly destroyed. In great cities like Liverpool, the Housing Market Renewal Initiative resulted in property prices sharply increasing while putting important historic buildings, like the birthplace of Ringo Starr, under threat.

“Today, developers are rediscovering the value in the renovation and refurbishment of Victorian terraces. Like the Welsh Streets of Liverpool, streets that were under serious and needless threat of being knocked down. These are now in a new wave of regeneration and renewal. We also need to be ambitious, creative and imaginative in repurposing commercial and public buildings.’

This is certainly good news for local heritage sites – and urban renewal and we will be very interested to see how our local, culturally significant properties here in Dorset might be affected by the plans.

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