What is the Heritage at Risk Programme?
The Heritage at Risk (HAR) programme helps us understand the overall state of England's historic sites. The programme identifies those sites that are most at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.
Every year Historic England updates the Heritage at Risk Register. The end result is a dynamic picture of the sites most at risk and most in need of safeguarding for the future.
The important process of checking the condition of our heritage goes back more than two decades to the birth of the London Buildings at Risk survey. The method has since been widened to include other types of historic places (heritage assets). The Register now includes:
- Buildings and structures
- Places of worship
- Archaeology entries
- Registered parks and gardens
- Registered battlefields
- Protected wreck sites
- Conservation areas
Heritage at Risk sites can come in many forms; from grand to simple buildings and structures, to large visible earthworks and less visible buried remains. Many issues threaten these sites, from environmental to human impact.
Wingfield Station is among the world’s first purpose-built rail passenger stations, but fell into severe disrepair after closure and decades in private ownership. Historic England underwrote compulsory purchase by Amber Valley Borough Council and acquisition by Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust who will repair and convert the station to business and heritage uses. The building is now secure and grants have been awarded by Historic England and others for the first phase of repairs.
Why is it important?
People regularly say how much the historic character of where they live, work and play contributes to their lives. With competing demands on public and private funds, we need to focus on the heritage assets that are at greatest risk and that offer the best opportunities for positive development.
The Heritage at Risk Register tells communities about the condition of their local neighbourhood. It encourages people to become actively involved in looking after what is precious to them. It also reassures them that any public funding goes to the most needy and urgent cases.
The Buildings at Risk project proved that the Register works. We published the first national Register of Buildings at Risk in 1998. We have now been tackling heritage at risk for more than 20 years, and over two-thirds of England's historic sites on the 1998 Register have since had their futures secured.
Regularly reviewing and updating our assessments of heritage assets allows us to pinpoint trends. We then explore why change is happening and how we can bring about more positive change in the future.
Bradenstoke Priory, Wiltshire had been a longstanding Heritage at Risk case. It was removed from the Register in 2020 following the successful repair and conservation of the undercroft.
What does the programme include?
As well as carrying out surveys on condition and management, Historic England also does social and economic research to understand the value of heritage.
Historic England's local teams have a specific focus on reducing local heritage at risk. They use the outcomes of research and the annual Register to help prioritise where they focus their time and funding.
They work with partners such as the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Natural England to support owners with funding to understand what repair or conservation works are needed as well as the actual work.
They strive to find solutions that work for both owners and the historic environment.