English Heritage to crowdsource "volunteer army" to save thousands of historic buildings

By Culture24 Reporter | 14 October 2013

English Heritage will enlist a watchful army of history lovers across the country under plans to help save some of Britain’s 345,000 Grade II-listed buildings, planners have announced.

A photo of a woman in a luminous jacket and hard hat carrying out a painting conservation
English Heritage conservators will help the public protect ancient buildings under a new scheme planned for autumn 2014© English Heritage
Experts say the proposed scheme has “vast potential” following a pilot year which has seen volunteers inspect 5,000 landmarks in 19 rural and urban areas.

“For owners of Grade II buildings which the surveys find to be in poor or very bad condition, this could be a lifeline to help and advice,” said Simon Thurley, the Chief Executive of English Heritage, calling the idea a “win-win proposition” for the sector, local councils and enthusiasts.

“We will eventually get, for the first time, a complete picture of the condition of all England's listed heritage.

“We can use this information to decide how best to deploy our national expertise to help owners and all those tackling heritage at risk on the ground.

“And we'll have a grass-roots network to spread understanding and appreciation of local heritage so that less of it becomes at risk in the first place.”

Thurley said active groups such as the Architectural Heritage Fund, the Victorian Society and Civic Voice would be offering their expertise to “a whole new generation” of conservators.

“You've seen it on TV but this could be your chance to help save a historic building or improve a conservation area,” he added, calling on public support for a campaign which is expected to be officially launched next autumn.

“You might simply want to get out and about, make new friends and learn more about local architecture and history.”

The proposals have an eye on introducing preventative measures, revealing areas in early decline for the benefit of planning applications.

Several buildings were flagged up to police after being found to be vacant and vulnerable to crime.

The survey also found that three-quarters of the volunteers, who surveyed an average of 13 buildings each day, had taken part to increase their knowledge. More than half were retired, with one in every ten sites given “vulnerable” status.

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