RSUA's response to the consultation on Proposals for an Historic Environment Fund

07 June 2016

RSUA’s Conservation Committee has responded to the proposals from the Historic Environment Division of the former Department of Environment (now Department for Communities) to introduce a Historic Environment Fund (HEF).

The Committee welcomes the development of a coordinated strategy for benefiting and supporting our built heritage within which the HEF is a component. The Committee is hopeful that funding will be sufficient for all suitable applications and not unduly restricted by budgetary constraints. In general, the Committee are of the opinion that it is vitally important to reinstate financial support for repairs to listed buildings and welcomes the proposal to introduce a Historic Environment Fund
that broadens the scope of previous funding schemes. The Committee recognises that heritage projects, that would otherwise not take place, will provide employment, improve the economy through tourism, maintain and increase skill sets, and maintain our heritage assets. Applications for grant aid will also have the benefit of forewarning the Historic Environment Division about proposed work on a listed building allowing the early application of conservation best practice principles.

The Committee agree with the sub-division of the HEF into the four key strands and their
associated aims. The Committee are of the opinion, however, that the relative percentages may have to be adjusted once the size of the budget allocation for the HEF is known. In particular, if the budget is sizeable then the actual allocation to the Historic Research strand will be out of proportion and could become excessive.

The Committee agrees with the proposed list of funding streams under Heritage Research, Heritage Regeneration, Heritage Repair and Heritage Revival. The Committee:

 would like further detail on how research that is funded with public monies will be disseminated to the public.

-  believe that the RSUA Conservation Certificate and Diploma courses should be considered eligible for funding.

-  Requests that consideration is given to funding learning activities organised by other heritage entities such as the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, Building Preservation Trusts, IHBC etc.

-notes that by limiting funding to Council owned buildings that are on the Heritage Risk Register, removes the incentive for early intervention on other buildings.

-  notes there is no reference to professional fees. The Committee considers it vital that funding assistance for professional fees is available in order to ensure that appropriately qualified professionals are involved with repair projects.

The Committee agrees with the retention of capping as a measure of ensuring an even and
consistent distribution of limited funds although should be reviewed as more funding becomes available. However, the introduction of a competitive element puts the buildings of unsuccessful applications at risk of increased and in some instances irreparable deterioration.

The Committee disagrees with the proposal to require proof of temporary measures.
The Committee agrees with the aspiration behind this requirement but does not see how it can be implemented. With all prioritising or qualifying measures there comes a risk that owners will be incentivised to deliberately let buildings fall into poor repair in order to benefit from funding. The Committee notes that careful monitoring of the current condition of protected structures is undertaken e.g. base line surveys.

This is summary of the key elements of the response. To receive a copy of the full response please contact Convener of the Conservation Committee, Peter Robinson on peter.robinson@alastaircoeyarchitects.com