Guest post by IHBC Wales Chair, Nathan Blanchard:
As we know one of the major barriers to local authorities deploying urgent works notice powers is the issue of recovering their monies post works (especially in these more straightened times) and the risks inherent in the present process. Registering a land charge is common practice with other enforcement type powers, such as the Building Act 1984 amongst others, as a means for Councils to be more robust in deploying powers, which otherwise may have an implication on already stretched budgets. With greater certainty created of cost recovery through a land charge, coupled with the recently released Buildings at Risk national survey by Cadw, local authorities will have not only the most up to date means to identify priorities for action but would also have a more effective tool with which to tackle decay and dereliction of historic buildings. However, at present it appears the proposed Heritage Bill will not include such a provision thereby undermining the business case for Cadw’s c£250,000 expenditure on the national buildings at risk survey for Wales, as the new Bill fails to give local authorities an effective means to tackle decaying historic buildings in our local communities, which appears to be at odds with the First Minister’s statement in the Assembly on the 24th July 2012 setting out his view by saying:
“It is right to say that there are concerns about the condition of many listed buildings, particularly with regard to continuing maintenance and neglect by their owners. The heritage protection Bill is designed, among other things, to ensure that owners live up to their responsibilities.”
It currently appears the proposed Heritage Bill has some way to go in meeting the First Minister’s stated aspirations. It may be worth those concerned with such matters to contact the Culture Minister, John Griffiths, via firstname.lastname@example.org , which may assist in the issue being revisited should others share concerns for ensuring we have a Heritage Bill fit for purpose.