Listed buildings maintenance and repair

Requirements to Maintain Listed Buildings

The Local Planning Authority has a responsibility to try to ensure that the listed buildings in its area are kept in good order. If, in its opinion, the building is not being adequately maintained the Local Authority is empowered to serve a 'Repairs Notice' on the owner requiring the carrying out of specified repair works. This may be followed by a compulsory purchase if it is considered that reasonable steps are not being taken to properly preserve the building.

The Purpose of Repair

It is important to be clear at the earliest stage about the purpose and need for repairs to a listed building. Expert advice should always be sought as much unnecessary damage to both the fabric and appearance of listed buildings has been carried out in the past by well intentioned 'repair work'. The primary purpose of any repair to a listed building should be to restrain the process of decay without damaging the character of the buildings, altering the features which have given them their historic or architectural importance, or unnecessarily disturbing or destroying their historic fabric.

Principles of Repair

The following principles should be adopted when considering the repair of historic buildings. These are taken from English Heritage's "The Repair of Historic Buildings".

(i) Be certain of the need for repair

Works of repair should be kept to the minimum required to stabilise and conserve the building or monument, with the aim of achieving a sufficiently sound structural condition to ensure long-term survival.

(ii) Avoid unnecessary damage through replacement

The authenticity of an historic building depends most crucially on the integrity of its fabric and on its design. Replacement of historic integrity, will diminish its authenticity and will significantly reduce its value as a source of historical information. It is, therefore, essential that only very selective replacement of the fabric of the listed building is undertaken and only for structural reasons. Weathering of historic buildings is inevitable and is part of the character and appeal of such buildings and is not necessarily a reason to replace parts of the fabric.

(iii) Analyse and understand the building's historic development

A thorough understanding of the historical development of a building or monument is a necessary preliminary to its repair. This may, in certain cases, involve archaeological and architectural investigation, documentary research, recording and interpretation of the particular structure and its assessment in a wider historic context. Such processes may, when appropriate, need to continue during the course of repairs. Satisfactory arrangements should be made for the subsequent preservation of all records.

(iv) Analyse and understand the cause of defects

The detailed design of repairs should be preceded by the long-term observation of the structural defects, together with an investigation of the nature and condition of the materials and of the causes, processes and rates of decay. To repair or replace decayed fabric without first carrying out such an investigation is to invite the repetition of problems.

(v) Adopt 'traditional' and suitable methods of repair

Repair techniques should match or be compatible with existing materials and methods of construction, in order to preserve the appearance and historic integrity of the building or monument, and to ensure that the work has an appropriate life. Exceptions should only be considered where the existing fabric has failed because of inherent defects of design or incorrect specification of materials, rather than from neglect of maintenance or because it has completed its expected life. New methods and techniques should only be used where they have proved themselves over a sufficient period and where traditional alternatives cannot be identified.

(vi) Be 'honest' in the use of materials

Repairs should be executed honestly using the original and matching materials. This may involve careful selection of materials. No attempt shall be made to disguise or artificially age the repair but it should not be unnecessarily obtrusive or unsympathetic in appearance.

(vii) Consider the implications of the removal of 'damaging' alterations

Additions or alterations including earlier repairs, are of importance for the part they place in the cumulative history of a building or monument. There should always be a strong presumption in favour of their retention. Whilst a programme of repairs may offer the opportunity for removing features which are of no intrinsic value in themselves and which seriously disrupt the architectural design and aesthetic value of a building or monument, the full implications of doing so must be carefully considered in advance and potential architectural and aesthetic gains must be balanced against any likely loss of historic integrity.

(viii) Seek to restore lost features

Some elements of a building or monument which are important to its design, for example balustrades, pinnacles, cornices, hoodmoulds, window tracery and members of a timber frame or roof truss may have been lost in the past. Where these are of structural significance, they should be put back in the course of repair; but a programme of repair may also offer the opportunity for the reinstatement of missing non-structural elements, provided that sufficient evidence exists for accurate replacement, no loss of historic fabric occurs and the necessary statutory consents are obtained in advance.

(ix) Seek to safeguard continued use

An historic building or monument should be regularly monitored and maintained and wherever possible provided with an appropriate and sympathetic use. This is the best way of securing its future and of keeping further repair requirements to a minimum.

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