An LPOC member recently wrote to their MP, Neil Parish, and they were happy for us to share the content of their letter with you.
Mr Neil Parish MP
House of Commons
Dear Neil Parish MP,
Thank you for taking the time to visit us recently; it was an extremely welcome surprise and a great opportunity to show you our home.
Firstly I have to apologise for not writing sooner, we have indeed been working all hours here. Either East Devon District Council (EDDC) must have found out you were on site or the divine intervention from our most holy neighbours at the Church finally won through! Our Planning and Listed applications for the Main Farmhouse were emailed through during our meeting. The applications on the Listed Cattleshed were granted 7 days later! We are of course overjoyed to finally have them all granted (our applications relating to the Old Dairy on site were also granted at the end of October), however as you know these six applications are the result of over 9 months of at times intense, stressful and above all costly negotiations. (With 8 more applications yet to submit we are at the least nervous!)
We bought the farm in October 2016 and immediately knew we would need to “hit the ground running” if we were to save the farm house and its numerous outbuildings from further deterioration. All but one of our buildings is individually listed. The farm, which has many historical family ties, had previously been in the ownership of another family for almost 100 years.
During this time the family had terribly neglected the buildings which have all seen various degrees of neglect. Probably against our better judgment we followed our hearts rather than our heads in an
attempt to save it from developers that were rumoured around the village to have their eyes on it.
At the Farm, we endeavour to work under the guidance of both local and national historical bodies and experts in an aim to preserve and enhance our buildings and to safeguard them for future generations. It is a financially stretching yet (hopefully) rewarding journey we have decided to follow.
Our priority is the structural safety and preservation of our buildings. We have a challenging and daunting mountain to climb here on the farm that will keep us busy for several years to come.
We have a lot of work to undertake and hope that by making the farm once again financially stable we will be able to restore the farm to its former glory and preserve its historical significance.
We have no wish to complain with regards the planning department at EDDC. We count ourselves quietly happy and relieved that we have managed to secure planning to safeguard three of our seven buildings in fewer than 12 months of residency. That is not to say that we haven’t faced numerous challenges and frustrations. We understand that EDDC are working under tight personnel and monetary budgets (I am an ex local authority employee myself). Yet however at every turn it seems policies we have to navigate favour the larger developer as opposed to the small scale preserver.
We are looking forward to submitting our next batch of planning and listed building applications in due course, however from our experiences over the last year we would encourage EDDC to consider holding group face to face meetings with the listed and planning officers, applicant and design teams present to encourage constructive discussions, thoughts and options, suggest alternative designs if required, ask questions and satisfy and progress any queries either party may have quickly. These were requested by our architect (who is a listed buildings professional herself) on several occasions and yet turned down by EDDC. It may not be a way forward for all applications however from our experience it may have proved a more economic approach (both time wise and financially) both for the council and the applicant.
Owners of listed buildings go above and beyond other homeowners with regards having to submit additional documentation and surveys to planning authorities. Our repairs are also often considerably more time consuming and costly to implement. In our experience we have also had to satisfy vastly costly ecological criteria before we can lift a stone or tile.
Whilst I’m sure you are already aware, the Tiverton and Honiton constituency currently has 2,595 listed properties, all of which are subject to a number of regulations and demands. As an owner of a listed property, I have an obligation to maintain a national asset and do a good job in ensuring its preservation for future generations.
Thousands of listed properties across the country are cherished and protected by owners who spend their own precious time and resources keeping them in good repair. Yet many owners struggle to find the resources to maintain these properties and constantly battle the challenges posed by the UK’s complex and inconsistent planning rules and regulations.
A recent survey by The Listed Property Owners’ Club (LPOC) revealed 87% of owners surveyed had said they considered the cost of upkeep of their listed building to be significantly greater than that of an unlisted building. We are urging political parties to support a four point plan:
- Introduce a new VAT rate of 5% for all repairs and pre-authorised alterations to listed buildings.
- Give local councils a duty to provide professional conservation advice to the owners of listed properties;
- Reform planning regulation to ensure better consistency in deciding listed building consent across the country;
- Remove unnecessary red tape by establishing nationally set exemptions on minor works that should not require listed building consent and introducing a more routine less bureaucratic method for securing consent for minor works.
In recent years however the Government has eroded the support that we owners have received, for example the scrapping of VAT relief on approved alterations in the 2012 budget. Furthermore, any available funds and grants to help the often extremely expensive repairs and alterations demanded by conservation officers have been lost. I know you and your family also share a passion for buildings of great historical value and appreciate the how much extra care and expense us as custodians go to in maintaining these assets.
Many listed building owners, including ourselves, are concerned that future policy initiatives might further jeopardise our ability to look after these properties. In response, The Listed Property Owners’ Club (LPOC), of which I am a member, has decided to reach out to political leaders to try and build support for this community who have previously been underrepresented. They aim to reduce the VAT on all listed building works and repairs to 5% which I would welcome.
There are approximately half a million listed properties, all of which are subject to strict regulations on planning, alterations and maintenance. I would welcome your opinions on listed buildings, along with reassurances that listed property owners will be protected and supported by future governments and the local authorities.
LPOC’s aim is to gain support for an All-Party Parliamentary Group for listed building owners. If you have not already done so, if you could give some consideration to joining the APPG to represent owners such as myself in your constituency, do speak directly with LPOC about their campaign. You can contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01795 844939. The club founder Peter Anslow is keen to discuss their efforts further with MPs representing listed building owners.
You are always welcome here at the Farm to see how we are getting on….. or even just for a cup of tea! I look forward to hearing from you.
We encourage you to write to your MP highlighting the difficulties you face as a listed property owner and details of our campaign. Find out how many listed properties are in your constituency click here and include this in your letter. For a template letter, click here.