Defending Our Heritage

The UK’s heritage buildings and attractions are growing in popularity and contributing a staggering £26.4 billion to the country’s economy – a rise of £5.8 billion in three years.

This was the conclusion of 2013 research by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which also suggests that heritage buildings are playing an increasingly important part in the choices of people who decide to stay in the UK for their holiday, with over a quarter of all UK holiday activities undertaken by UK residents involving heritage.
This means it’s not just important from a historical perspective to ensure listed buildings are maintained, but also an economic imperative.


There are around half a million listed buildings in the UK, 90% of which are in the more historic and prized Grade II category. Although owners of these heritage properties face a constant problem of replacement and renewal, there are four key areas that cause the most serious problems and are where the focus of maintenance should be. These are:

  • Drainage
    This can be a major issue, particularly with properties in natural surroundings in more exposed, rural locations that experience high rainfall levels. Excess water needs to be channel away from the property to prevent basement flooding and the next key problem…
  • Damp
    Heritage buildings need to be well drained to prevent damp, and this includes regular maintenance of drainage channels on the property itself, such as guttering. It’s also vital that damp courses are checked regularly and maintained. Damp accelerates the next key problem…
  • Decay
    Crumbling brickwork, rotting window frames and panels, along with damaged roofs are a constant concern in heritage properties. Improving drainage to prevent damp can play a key role in retarding decay and reducing maintenance bills. However, buildings should be regularly checked for signs of decay and repaired quickly to prevent any problems getting out of hand and creating serious structural problems.

Of course, it’s not just a case of keeping buildings well maintained, but the work has to be done in line with the historic materials and character of the property under listed building legislation.

Other risks

There are additional dangers that can cause severe damage to listed properties, the most serious of which are fire and theft. The nature of listed buildings and their contents make these much bigger risks than for normal homes. The following steps can help reduce these risks:

  • Five yearly inspections by qualified electricians
  • Install high-sensitivity smoke detection system
  • Security measures such as intruder alarms and deadlocks for doors and windows

The right insurance

The burden of maintenance of listed buildings and other risks are a major expense for owners, but the right insurance can provide considerable help.

The problem is that the latest survey into listed building insurance in the UK found two thirds were incorrectly insured. Some 40% were shown to be underinsured by an average of £1.1 million, while 25% were overinsured by an average of £2.1 million. This suggests thousands of owners are either wasting money on unnecessarily high insurance premiums or could be facing severe financial risk because their property is insured for too little.

This is where specialist help with insuring list properties is vital. An expert insurer will advise on where owners can save money through using standard property insurance, and where more specialist cover is required. Plus they are also likely to be able to recommend an accredited survey with experience of listed buildings to value the property accurately to ensure it is adequately insured.

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Author: Ben Butler | January 6, 2015

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