Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (the “1990 Act”) to establish additional factors, including environmental performance, health and safety and maintenance costs, as matters to be taken into account by the Secretary of State in considering whether to include, retain or release a building, or part thereof, in or from a list compiled or approved under the 1990 Act due to its architectural or historic interest; to make provision about excluding parts of buildings and structures within their curtilage from such lists; and for connected purposes.
I moved into a farm that is a grade II listed building. Although a public footpath runs between my house and the cowshed, I believe I would require listed building consent to put solar panels on the cowshed roof as it lies within what is called the curtilage, even though the cowshed is not mentioned in the listing for the farm. It is a corrugated metal building of no historic or architectural interest and it smells strongly of manure.
In the light of that experience, I believe that the curtilage requirement is a piece of red tape that needs to be removed: for the benefit of the planet; for the people who occupy listed buildings and do nothing about the environment to have their excuse of curtilage removed; to free up more roof space for solar panels; and to fulfil our desire to be the greenest Government ever. Yes, of course, we need to protect that which is historically valuable, but we need to protect the planet. By including just the elements of the buildings we wish to protect in the listing, we will not put at risk the history we love and want to cherish. I am looking to make changes only to grade II buildings, as grade I and grade II* protect buildings deemed to be “of exceptional interest” and of “particular importance”. I have confidence that Historic England has listed carefully all the important elements in those buildings.
In 2015, there were 376,099 listed buildings in England, 92% of which were grade II—346,011 buildings. In north Herefordshire, we have 4,150 listed buildings, of which 81 are grade I, 233 are grade II* and 3,668 grade II. Historic England’s website says:
“Any omission from the list description of a feature does not indicate that it is not of interest. Objects, structures and buildings affixed to a listed building or within its curtilage may also be protected by listing. These rules may mean that considerably more may be protected by the listing than is obvious from the list entry alone and there can often be considerable uncertainty as to what is covered.”
It is a criminal offence to carry out works that require listed building consent without first obtaining the required consent. Ignorance of a building’s listed status cannot be used as a defence. The maximum penalty for carrying out works without permission is two years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine—all to stop a few solar panels and some insulation! I know that Historic England understands the need for change, because according to its website:
“As from 26th June 2013 some new list entries or list entries amended after that date may expressly exclude such curtilage buildings from protection.”
It is time to roll out that common sense to all grade II buildings.
Restrictions on listed status prevent environmentally friendly changes to buildings that are necessary to protect our planet. Older buildings can be enormously expensive to heat and have high maintenance costs. Their owners must face up to their environmental responsibility and save energy, and not just turn up the thermostat.
There are some social justice issues here, too. Many of the buildings do not belong to wealthy people who can afford more oil; even those who can are doing the wrong thing. It is far better to insulate and save fossil fuel.
We must make it easier for owners to make energy- saving changes, while protecting the sections of their historic homes that are valuable. They would then be able to spend more on looking after the buildings, which would become more affordable to live in, thus opening the market wider to members of society. It is therefore a question of balance: opening up the opportunities for grade II owners to do more for the environment, while saving the features of importance to Historic England.
If I may use Buckingham Palace as an example, although it is grade I, the listing goes into detail about many fine features both externally and internally. In reference to the roof, it says, “Slate and leaded roofs”. As the roof is mentioned in the listing it should be protected and solar panels would therefore require listed building consent. However, many other grade II listed buildings where the entry does not go into anywhere near as much detail should have only that which is listed protected, just the same as Buckingham Palace. Not every listed building is large or expensive; some homes just happen to be within the curtilage of a listed building. This curtilage “catch all” is a lazy and bureaucratic device that is out of date. One of the most important points is that it adds cost and workload to already overstretched council planning departments, particularly at a time when they are under enormous pressure—costs and constraints that in turn detract from protecting the valuable—as well as enforcement action, which is time- consuming and risky.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer often talks about mending the roof when the sun is shining. He never says we need to ask the council for listed building consent to be allowed to do so. However, we need to do more than simply mend the roof. We need to use it for solar panels, we need to insulate the roof and we need to be free to do so without having to ask permission. It is time to change the curtilage requirement. We need to be precise in what we want to preserve. We need to stand up for all that is good about our history and go forward protecting all that is good about our planet.
Question put and agreed to.
That Bill Wiggin, Mr David Burrowes, Mr Richard Bacon, Dame Angela Watkinson, Zac Goldsmith, Mr Stewart Jackson, Robert Neill, Sir Gerald Howarth, Mr Mark Prisk and Boris Johnson present the Bill.
Bill Wiggin accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 11 March 2016, and to be printed (Bill 89).