Managing Heritage Locations

If you manage a heritage location open to the public, including retail and visitor attractions, or you work at a historic site, this page may be useful.

It will help you to:

  • Find guidance from government and other sector bodies
  • Think through considerations for managing or working at historic sites.

This advice has been prepared by Historic England in line with guidance published by DCMS. The considerations we recommend below are not exhaustive and do not add additional requirements to the government guidance or legislation.

It is no longer necessary for Government to instruct people to work from home. Employers can start to plan a return to workplaces.

As an employer, you have a legal duty to consult workers on health and safety matters. You can do this by listening and talking to them about the work they do and how you will manage the risks from COVID-19.

Testing twice a week increases the chances of detecting COVID-19 when a person is infectious - helping to make sure you don’t spread COVID-19.

Government guidance on operating safely

Key to your plans will be the advice which comes from central government. All the latest coronavirus advice and updates should be followed, and can be found on the government’s coronavirus hub.

Other, more sector specific government advice for working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) which will be useful to you includes:


These documents set out the requirements from government which will help you to manage your business in a safe way. They cover areas such as how to manage toilets, public areas, staff rooms and the flow of people inside the building (both staff and customers).

As well as the general government guidance above, you may find the detailed information below useful.

Ventilation in heritage locations

Assessing ventilation in many environments requires engineering expertise, and mitigation measures should consider the nature of the building and users, ventilation type, length of exposure and activity. Unlike distancing and hand washing, ventilation requirements cannot easily be distilled into one approach suitable for all settings.

Ventilation should be considered as part of a hierarchy of risk controls approach. Where ‘improving’ ventilation is not possible due to sensitive fabric or collections, source control measures such as avoiding the use of areas or restricting or reducing duration of activities should be considered alongside ventilation for reducing far-field aerosol transmission risks.

Sites may be able to provide additional natural ventilation, where possible and appropriate, by opening doors or windows. However, this method is less controllable, with more variable ventilation rates, than mechanical systems.

Any changes to ventilation should consider potential negative consequences which need to be assessed, including: financial, energy use, compromising fire compartmentation, impact to sensitive fabric and/or collections, noise, security and health and wellbeing impacts from thermal discomfort and exposure to pollutants.

Where doors are able to be propped open, these will need automatic release in the event of a fire or fire alarm. For example, the fitting of a door guard.

The effectiveness of ventilation in many environments is strongly influenced by user behaviour. Clear messaging is needed about the reasons why good ventilation is important and how to effectively operate ventilation systems or achieve good natural ventilation.

The Government Indemnity Scheme also offers information and guidance on ventilation during the pandemic.

The installation or modification of mechanical ventilation systems can be a challenge for historic buildings. The key challenges are;

  • Providing external terminations which are sympathetic to the external façade from both an aesthetic perspective and limiting the damage to fabric during installation.
  • Suitable locations for plant.
  • Routes for ductwork in historic buildings without the ceiling voids and risers that can be provided during the design of modern buildings.
  • Any provisions should be designed in detail to protect and work with the historic building and avoid ventilation systems being installed in an ad-hoc fashion.

In some cases, it may be more appropriate to reduce the number of people in an area, rather than to provide more ventilation to a historic building. The focus should be on the provision of at least the minimum requirement of fresh air provision, rather than increasing the complexity of the ventilation system.

Where mechanical measures or increased natural ventilation is being considered, site managers are likely to need to seek engineering expertise.

Owners and managers will need to check with the local planning authority if any consent, such as listed building consent, is required before carrying out work.

Historic spaces with sensitive fabric and/or collections require careful consideration.  Natural ventilation in this application can be a challenge due to the uncontrollable nature of this type of ventilation.  It may be possible to adapt existing mechanical ventilation systems for this application by design and adaptation or simply by adjusting the controls and existing components.  If COVID-19 continues to be a risk in the longer term, it may be appropriate to display sensitive collections in environmentally buffering display cases.

For detailed general COVID-19 advice on ventilation please see that issued by Public Health England, the Health and Safety Executive and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers.

Pubs and restaurants

You should follow all relevant government guidance and updates, including those in relation to cleaning and ventilation. These include:

VisitBritain has launched a resource centre and a new industry standard and consumer mark to increase consumer confidence that venues adhere to government guidance.

We think that the fact your building is listed is highly unlikely to inhibit to any significant degree how you can use it to manage your business during this period. With some careful thinking, you can flexibly plan how your particular historic building can best function to comply with government guidance on COVID-19.

It is only if there are direct physical works that you might need consent and normally ways can be found to achieve a safe building without such changes.

This checklist will help you to put in necessary new measures that do not damage the importance of your building in heritage terms (what the legislation calls affecting the ‘special interest’ of the building):

  • In carrying out your Risk Assessment, including risks from COVID-19, have you thought about how any physical changes (temporary or permanent) might cause damage to heritage?
  • The interiors of listed buildings are protected as well as the exteriors. If you need to carry out physical alterations, how can you do so in a way that does not affect the building’s ‘special interest’ and so does not require listed building consent?
    Examples include:
      • Putting in screens, partitions, signs or other measures to protect staff or ensure customers can practice safe distancing in a way that does not harm historic fabric.
      • Putting a marquee in an outdoor space to increase separation between customers rather than removing old, or inserting new, partitions which perhaps can only be fixed into important historic walls, floors, ceilings or beams.
    You will need to try and ensure that any new fixings are placed into mortar joints or modern surfaces rather than stones, old bricks, carved beams, historic plasterwork or other old surfaces.
  • It is vital that you minimise the chances of spreading infection by cleaning contaminated surfaces. Are you sure that the cleaning products you propose to use, or their increased use, will not damage sensitive historic surfaces? These include timber panelling, historic handrails or old wallpaper. Please follow our advice on cleaning.
  • Are there ways of limiting the chances of infection, for example alternating the seats and tables in use so that once used they can be left for the requisite period without the need for such frequent cleaning?
  • The general government guidance may indicate that you need to put up more signs. Any signs will, of course, need to be highly visible to staff and/or customers. But if you need to fix them to floors, walls or other surfaces, have you made sure that this is done in a way which does not damage historic surfaces?

    Most markings to help people keep a safe distance apart can be easily put in place with tape, stickers, or signs on walls. But if any of those surfaces are fragile, don’t forget that even so-called ‘temporary’ adhesive products can cause damage to historic surfaces if they are left in place for an extended period. Advice is normally available from the manufacturer’s website or our guidance.
  • If customers or staff are using the building in a different way, for example using different doors or stairs to normal, can these be made safe and accessible in ways that don’t require physical alteration and protect what is special about the building?

Retail in historic buildings

You should follow all relevant government guidance and updates, including those in relation to cleaning and ventilation. These include:

VisitBritain has launched a resource centre and a new industry standard and consumer mark to increase consumer confidence that venues adhere to government guidance.

We think that the fact your building is listed is highly unlikely to limit how you can use it to manage your business at this time. With some careful thinking, you can flexibly plan how your particular historic building can best function to comply with government COVID-19 guidance.

It is only if there are direct physical works that you might need Listed Building Consent, and normally ways can be found to achieve a safe building without the need to make changes that require consent.

This checklist will help you ensure that if you need to put in any new measures, these do not damage the importance of your building in heritage terms (what the legislation calls affecting the ‘special interest’ of the building):

  • In carrying out your Risk Assessment, including risks related to COVID-19, have you thought about how any physical changes (temporary or permanent) might cause damage to heritage?
  • The interiors of listed buildings are protected as well as the exteriors. If you need to carry out physical alterations, how can you do so in a way that does not affect the building’s ‘special interest’ and so do not require listed building consent?
    Examples include:
    • Putting in screens, partitions, signs or other measures to protect staff or ensure customers can practice safe distancing in a way that does not harm historic fabric.
    • Putting up barriers or partitions so that customers can queue safely.
  • Can you make temporary and reversible changes? Temporary, easily removable additions such as clear plastic screens fixed to modern serving counters or fittings are likely to be acceptable.
  • Where more solid, longer-term alterations are necessary you will need to try and ensure that any new fixings are placed into mortar joints or modern surfaces rather than stones, old bricks, carved beams, historic plasterwork or other old surfaces.
  • It is vital that you minimise the chances of spreading infection by cleaning surfaces which might be contaminated. Are you sure that the cleaning products you propose to use, or their increased use, will not damage sensitive historic surfaces? These include timber panelling, historic handrails or old wallpaper. Please follow our advice on cleaning.
  • The general government guidance may indicate that you need to put up more signs. Any signs will, of course, need to be highly visible to staff and/or customers. But if you need to fix them to floors, walls or other surfaces have you made sure that this is done in a way which does not damage historic surfaces?

    Most markings to help people keep a safe distance apart can be easily put in place with tape, stickers, or signs on walls. But if any of those surfaces are fragile, don’t forget that even so-called ‘temporary’ adhesive products can cause damage to historic surfaces if they are left in place for an extended period. Advice is normally available from the manufacturer’s website or our guidance.
  • If customers or staff are using the building in a different way, for example using different doors or stairs to normal, can these be made safe and accessible in ways that don’t require physical alteration and protect what is special about the building?
  • Are there ways in which you can limit the chances of infection, for example alternating or stopping the use of any changing rooms so as to preserve social distancing?

Industrial heritage sites

You should follow all relevant government guidance and updates, including those in relation to cleaning and ventilation. These include:

VisitBritain has launched a resource centre and a new industry standard and consumer mark to increase consumer confidence that venues adhere to government guidance.

If your site includes listed buildings and/or a scheduled monument, this is highly unlikely to inhibit to any significant degree how you can use them to manage your business safely. With some careful thinking, you can flexibly plan how your site can best function to comply with government guidance.

It is only if there are direct physical works to a listed building that you might need consent, and normally ways can be found to achieve a safe building without such changes. For proposals affecting scheduled monuments, the requirements are stricter.

If you are unclear about whether listed building consent is needed please contact your local authority historic building conservation officer and for scheduled monuments, the relevant Historic England local office will be able to offer advice. 

Industrial heritage sites can include mine sites, textile mills, waterworks, furnaces, kilns, those associated with various forms of transport, and wind and water mills. Many visitor attractions containing mobile heritage, for example steam railways, often include designated heritage assets, such as listed buildings.

This checklist will help you to put in necessary new measures which do not damage the importance of your listed building/structure in heritage terms (what the legislation calls affecting the ‘special interest’ of the building):

  • Have you thought about any physical changes you might need to make (temporary or permanent), and how these might cause damage to the listed heritage asset?
  • The interiors of listed buildings are protected as well as the exteriors. If you need to carry out physical alterations, how can you do so in a way that does not affect the building’s ‘special interest’ and so does not require listed building consent?
    Examples include:
    • Putting in screens, partitions, signs or other measures to protect staff or ensure customers can practice safe distancing in a way that does not harm historic fabric.
    • Being sensitive to listed structures/buildings when using paint or sticky tape for social distance marking on floors, and so on.
    • Putting a marquee in an outdoor space to increase separation between visitors rather than removing old, or inserting new, partitions which perhaps can only be fixed into important historic walls, floors, ceilings or beams.
    You will need to try and ensure that any new fixings are placed into mortar joints or modern surfaces rather than stones, old bricks, carved beams, historic plasterwork or other old surfaces.
  • It is vital that you minimise the chances of spreading infection by cleaning contaminated surfaces. Are you sure that the cleaning products you propose to use, or their increased use, will not damage sensitive historic surfaces? These may include timberwork, historic surfaces, machinery,and son on. Please follow our advice on cleaning.
  • If visitors, staff or volunteers are using the site in a different way, for example using different doors or stairs to normal, can these be made safe and accessible in ways that don’t require physical alteration and protect what is special about the building or site?

Volunteers

  • If your volunteers are working on site, have you given them information about plans to access the site safely, including toilets and other structures, and how to raise any concerns they have?
  • If your volunteers are not currently able to work on site, are there other things they could help with? Can they help enhance your digital offer or strengthen links with local groups remotely?

Other resources for industrial heritage sites

  • The Industrial Heritage Support Officer for England, Dr Michael Nevell, based at Ironbridge Gorge Museum, can provide help and support. Please contact him at: [email protected]
  • Regular updates are provided through the Industrial Heritage Support Officer project’s Facebook pages, Twitter posts (@IHSOEngland) and through Industrial Heritage Support website.
  • Industrial Heritage Support Networks are also being set up across England to provide information, advice and share expertise. If you would like to join your local network, please contact the Industrial Heritage Support Officer.

Working safely as a heritage professional at heritage locations

Architects

RIBA has compiled guidance for its members and for the architectural sector.

Archaeologists

Trade union Prospect has issued guidance endorsed by both the professional body, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), and the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers (FAME) which covers the commercial archaeology sector. The document covers:

  • Travelling to and from a site
  • Working on a site
  • Archaeological site travel
  • Emergency procedures
  • Links to other guidance.

Several organisations have produced advice, particularly on risk assessments and staying safe on site, including:

The government has released guidance for working safely in construction and other outdoor work.

CIfA and ALGAO have released a joint statement on archaeology and Covid-19

  • Can you maintain your welfare arrangements and hygiene standards in line with the latest government advice? Your site should have been set up with these issues in mind.
  • Do you know the plans for accessing any temporary site buildings and structures, for example toilets, to minimise contact with others?
  • Are your tools, stationery, PPE and other equipment named, allocated to you and not shared?
  • Have you checked that any unavoidably-shared equipment, for example survey equipment has been cleaned before you use it?
  • Do you know the plans for storing and accessing tools, finds and samples to minimise contact with others?
  • Can you avoid taking things away from the site unless cleaned or quarantined in line with the latest advice?
  • Can you avoid high risk activities, for example confined spaces work or working at height, which should be avoided if possible? If this is not possible, have you considered and planned these activities carefully using the latest government guidelines?
  • Can you hold site briefings digitally? If not, are you conducting these outside?
  • Are you limiting site meetings and visitors or conducting these digitally?
  • Do you know what the plans are for site down time (for example because of bad weather or waiting for personnel/ equipment/ access)?
  • Do you know how and where to raise issues or concerns?

Places of worship

Many denominations and faith groups have produced resources for historic places of worship, including:

VisitBritain has launched a resource centre and a new industry standard and consumer mark to increase consumer confidence that venues adhere to government guidance.

Government has published guidance for the safe opening of places of worship.

Cleaning

It is important to ventilate places of worship. Both for the sake of people entering the building and because historic buildings need to have air movement to keep them healthy.

It is vital that you minimise the chances of spreading infection by cleaning contaminated surfaces. Are you sure that the cleaning products you propose to use, or their increased use, will not damage sensitive historic surfaces? These may include historic pews, the floor, communion rails and choir stalls.

Please follow our advice on cleaning. The Church of England also offers advice on keeping church buildings clean

Hand sanitiser and bins

You may wish to provide hand sanitiser and bins for tissues or used masks. Have you made sure that you have fixed dispensers in a way which does not damage or drip onto historic surfaces?

Signage and movement of people

You may wish to put up more signs, for example to help people understand how to move around the building. Any signs will, of course, need to be highly visible. But if you need to fix them to floors, walls or other surfaces, have you made sure that this is done in a way which does not damage historic surfaces?

Most markings to help people keep a safe distance apart can be easily put in place with tape, stickers, or signs on walls. But if any of those surfaces are fragile, don’t forget that even so-called ‘temporary’ adhesive products can cause damage to historic surfaces if they are left in place for an extended period. Advice is normally available from the manufacturer’s website or our guidance.

Similar considerations apply if you are marking out new routes or indicating spacing to help with social distancing. You may wish to consider using suitable non-slip mats (with a ‘waffle’ or dimpled backing to minimise damp issues) to protect historic floors. Regular vacuuming and lifting of mats will minimise the build-up of dirt and moisture around and underneath them.

Maintenance

When considering how to safely open your historic place of worship, you could consider checking general maintenance items at the same time.

Lockdown has meant that basic care may have been impossible, which could lead to much bigger problems in future. It is important, where possible and safe, to continue with maintenance.

For example, you could check the roof and flashings, look out for leaks and make sure downpipes, gutters and gullies are clear. This is also a good time to catch up with any electrical, lightning conductor, boiler or other statutory tests that were due but have not happened because of lockdown.

Bats

If your place of worship has a resident bat colony, the Bats in Churches project has produced comprehensive guidance for cleaning and reopening after lockdown. 

Volunteers

  • If your volunteers are able to continue working on site, have you given them information about plans to access the site safely, including toilets? Do they know how to raise any concerns they have?
  • If their regular tasks are not possible, can your volunteers help with maintenance or other work while maintaining social distancing?
  • If your volunteers are not currently able to work on site, are there other things they could help with? Could they help enhance your digital offer or strengthen links with local groups remotely?

Historic parks and gardens

The government has published advice for managing outdoor public space.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Local Government Association, National Trust, Apse and others have published a guidance document on Managing Public Parks during Covid-19. This contains information on facilities and infrastructure, staffing, visitors and events, and communication.

VisitBritain has launched a resource centre and a new industry standard and consumer mark to increase consumer confidence that venues adhere to government guidance.

The British Association of Landscape Industries provides on operating procedures to keep workforces safe and there is other advice available on their web site. The sector magazine, Horticulture Week, published guidance on control measures (7 April 2020).

Advice on managing public access to parks is offered by various local authorities such as the Greater London Authority.

New guidance has been published and funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Local Government Association. It aims to help those managing public parks to understand published government guidance and bring together good practice to help re-open public parks and urban green spaces.

The Ordnance Survey, along with many other organisations in the outdoor recreation sector, has published the Get Outside hub. This provides information on the government guidance as well as activities to get people safely out into natural environments.

  • If you have one, your conservation management plan will guide you in the measures you can take.
  • If you are thinking about widening footways within a park, will these change the historic design of the park or undo any restoration work to paths?
  • If you are planning to provide movement guidance around a park, such as one-way circulation, have you ensured that any markings are temporary and reversible?
  • If you are adding markings, tape or barriers for queuing at toilets, and so on, have you made sure that these are temporary and reversible?
  • You may wish to increase space for pedestrians and cycles beside park entrances. Have you considered solutions which do not include altering historic entrances or gates, which may be listed, such as using different entrances from normal?
  • Have you made sure that any changes, including screens or barriers, are installed in a way which does not cause damage to historic fabric or archaeological features?
  • Litter: are you prepared to deal with litter at the site? This may include adding new bins and increasing the frequency of collections.
  • Pre-visit information: are you regularly updating your website or other communication channels with information about opening times, peak times, facilities available, permitted activities, how to donate, and so on?

Volunteers

  • If your volunteers are working on site, have you given them information about plans to access the site safely, including toilets and other structures, and how to raise any concerns they have?
  • If your volunteers are not currently on site, are there other things they could help with? Could they help enhance your digital offer or strengthen links with local groups remotely?
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