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Scotland Magazine News - Summit Aims to Tackle “Serious risk” to Built Heritage

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Mon 19 Nov 2012

Summit Aims to Tackle “Serious risk” to Built Heritage

The people of Scotland are being encouraged to take a more active role in safeguarding the nation’s built heritage, after figures showed that the majority of pre-1919 traditional properties are in need of urgent repair.

The problem will be highlighted by the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, when she addresses the Stimulating Demand for Traditional Skills Ministerial Summit at Forth Valley College in Stirling today (Monday, November 19th).

Ms Hyslop will announce that Historic Scotland is to pilot a Traditional Building Healthcheck scheme, which will help owners identify problems and suggest how they can best be tackled, and said traditional skills could also encourage employment and sustainable housing, tackle climate change, and assist economic recovery.

Organised by Historic Scotland, the Summit will hear that 75 per cent of the nation’s 455,000 traditional dwellings show disrepair to critical elements, such as roofing and external walls, with 53 per cent in need of urgent repair.

These properties, around a fifth of the national total, comprise the bulk of the vernacular architecture which gives Scotland its unique character – from the sandstone tenements of Edinburgh and Glasgow to the granite housing of Aberdeen, and the locally distinctive features of other towns, cities and villages across the country.

Ms Hyslop commented: “Scotland’s built heritage is central to our understanding of who we are, and where we come from. It defines our character and reveals much about our interaction with the natural world. Traditional dwellings are a hallmark of our creativity, ingenuity and practical prowess, yet few people realise that much of this irreplaceable resource is in serious decline.

“The evidence produced by Historic Scotland is unequivocal. These are good buildings, some of which have been poorly maintained, and their declining condition is a cause for serious concern.

“I can announce that I have directed Historic Scotland to launch a pilot project - the Traditional Building Healthcheck scheme, which will help property owners identify problems and stimulate demand for traditional building skills.

“This will complement the agency’s wider partnership working with others in the sector, and stakeholders and the public, to ensure that active steps are taken now to reverse this decline in our built heritage.”

The Ministerial Summit has attracted speakers including Jacques Akerboom, an internationally renowned Dutch expert in the preservation of cultural heritage, and Alan Forster, a research lecturer specialising in construction technology and building conservation from Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh.

The pilot Traditional Building Healthcheck scheme is a starting point for a strategy that aims to raise awareness of the condition of Scotland’s traditional building stock. Research has shown that attitudes towards repair generally tend to be reactive rather than proactive, and Historic Scotland hopes the new scheme and wider strategy will encourage people to take a more active role in the maintenance of their properties.

Historic Scotland believes a partnership approach is crucial to finding a solution. The agency is developing an industry-wide Charter for Traditional Buildings, which will focus attention on key messages and practical projects, and encourage progress towards a wider cultural change across all of Scotland.

The breath of industry interest in the Summit is reflected in a delegate guest list which includes representatives of The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, the Federation of Master Builders, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS), Balfour Beatty Construction, The National Federation of Roofing Contractors, COSLA, and the Scottish Building Federation.

Chairman of BEFS, Cliff Hague said: “Scotland’s stock of traditional buildings needs care and attention. It makes economic sense to keep older buildings in a good state of repair – investment in regular maintenance saves on larger scale repair later. It supports local jobs and helps carbon reduction. This initiative should put repair and maintenance up the ‘to do list’ of everyone that has responsibility for, or a stake in, Scotland’s built heritage.”

ConstructionSkills Scotland will be working in partnership with Historic Scotland on the Traditional Building Healthcheck scheme. The organisation’s Director, Graeme Ogilvy said: “The aim of the scheme from a construction point of view will be to stimulate the repair and maintenance market. The inspections will be independent, and contractors with the appropriate skills and qualifications will be appointed to undertake any work identified.

“This will encourage homeowners to undertake repairs, as those in the scheme would receive a report outlining the state of repair for their property, and locate a list of qualified contractors to undertake any work identified. The project will create more work for construction companies in Scotland, by enabling them to understand the criteria for becoming an approved contractor, and open up new work opportunities. In addition, it will drive up demand for repair and maintenance activities and will consequently increase demand for training and skills.”

At the Federation of Master Builders, Director Grahame Barn said: “We strongly support Historic Scotland’s Traditional Building Healthcheck scheme. Identifying problems quickly can prevent small jobs becoming, large expensive headaches for homeowners. The scheme is an excellent way to raise awareness of the repair and maintenance of traditional buildings, as well as sustaining small local construction companies, who provide jobs and train apprentices in traditional building skills.”

Stimulating Demand for Traditional Skills has been organised as part of Historic Scotland’s wider Traditional Skills Strategy. The agency aims to be a world leader in traditional skills training, to help meet the needs of a modern, innovative and competitive construction sector. The Strategy helps ensure the sector is equipped to create and maintain the nation’s built environment, and contributes to economic recovery.