Buildings at Risk

SAVE has been compiling a register of Buildings at Risk (BaR) since 1989. The register highlights historic buildings that are vacant and whose future is uncertain with the aim to identify new owners able to repair them and/or find a new use for them, which will secure the building's future. The great majority of the buildings on our register are listed but not all are actively being marketed. In this sense we are not a substitute for property websites such as Rightmove; our register seeks to raise awareness about buildings at risk.

The register exists in two versions:

Catalogue: Once a year we compile and publish a catalogue of buildings at risk. Each building entry is also added to the online buildings at risk register. As well as the entries, the catalogue also features spotlight articles on particular building types, areas and has a section focusing on 'successes' and 'scandals'. These pages are unique to the catalogue that year and are not added to the website. 

The 2019/20 BaR Catalogue, 'Don't Leave Me This Way' is available for purchase for £15 (£10 Friends and Saviours). It is a must read for anyone interested in restoring historic properties, with 100 buildings from across Britain in need of a new lease of life, inspiration from some of the most challenging cases, and plenty of practical advice.

Spotlight articles include a piece about Halifax and its great stock of historic buildings and an update on the SAVE Trust's work on the fascinating Castle House in Bridgwater.

You can order the catalogue here.

Online register: The online register contains many more entries than the catalogue - presently over 1,500 - and allows us to make updates and additions whenever they occur. We strive to keep the register as up to date as possible, but with no current buildings at risk officer this is not always possible.

To access the online register you need to become a subscriber of SAVE.

What is a Building at Risk?

A building at risk (BaR) is a building that has been identified as an historic building at risk through neglect and decay. Buildings at Risk range from those that are virtually on the point of collapse to those that are just a bit ragged around the edges, and from vacant to inhabited buildings. The term Buildings at Risk also applies to historic buildings that are not listed (as yet) or within a conservation area but make an important contribution to their overall rural or urban landscape that do not necessarily merit their individual listing.

Why are so many buildings at risk?

There are a number of reasons why a building may be at risk. Each case is unique but there are recurring themes:

Buildings are made redundant and may become at risk through changes in technology, demography, economic patterns, popular taste or government policies. Textile mills, churches, schools, hospitals, farm buildings, railway stations or Ministry of Defence sites, such as the Royal Aircraft Establishment Farnborough, are just a few examples. Less obvious problems are faced by the traditional high street shops, many of whose upper floors are unused and poorly maintained, putting the whole property at risk. Redundancy need not be the death knell for a building; in the majority of cases a new use can be found.

Many buildings, however, particularly agricultural or industrial, have been redundant for years. Without regular maintenance their condition often deteriorates before a new use is identified, leading in some cases to their demolition (a stage that historic buildings should not be allowed to reach). These buildings can become a target for vandals and arsonists and like all empty buildings blight the quality of an area's environment.

It is often said that there are no problem buildings, just problem owners. While this may be something of an exaggeration it does demonstrate one of the biggest problems with buildings at risk. There are many buildings whose future is jeopardised by owners who, for a variety of reasons ranging from brazen neglect to lack of funds, have allowed their buildings to fall into disrepair. One of the biggest problems is that often the owners refuse to repair or sell the building at a reasonable price. These problems can be overcome, but they lengthen the time before the building is repaired thus raising the amount of repair required.

Another problem, which can seriously impair the re-use of a building, is unclear ownership. It has been estimated that a third of Britain's 18 million or so properties are still either unregistered or the title is unclear. Often rural properties will not have been registered because it has remained in the same family for generations, particularly if a building is part of a large estate.

The location of a building can be a problem. It might have been cut off by an insensitive road development or lie in a now abandoned industrial area, or it might simply be situated in an area characterised by neglect. This does not mean that there is no hope, for the restoration of historic buildings is a key factor in the regeneration of an area. A local eyesore can be transformed into a building the local community can feel proud of once more, enhancing the quality of the environment and the desirability of the area, and often, providing employment possibilities.