Report highlights green benefits of old buildings

Older homes are more popular than their modern counterparts, cheaper to maintain and vital to the government's sustainable communities plan, according to an English Heritage report.

The agency's second annual report on the state of the nation's historic environment, published this week, says that houses built before 1919 are on average worth 20 per cent more than similar modern homes.

The report, published on behalf of the Historic Environment Steering Group, also highlights the threat posed by underfunding and staff shortages to thousands of listed buildings, parks and gardens.

Neil Cossons, chairman of the steering group, commented: "The figures demonstrate that much of our heritage is in peril, despite its contribution to core government policies such as social and economic regeneration."

The study concludes that older homes can be more cost effective and sustainable over the long term, due to higher-quality materials and better design.

Eddie Booth, chairman of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, said: "The agenda on sustainability tends to focus on new construction, but sustainability is heritage-led."

Authorities average fewer than two conservation officers and a third have no buildings at risk register, according to the report. It adds that more than 80 per cent of councils failed to enforce repairs or prosecute illegal alterations last year and reveals that funding for conservation services has dropped in real terms over the past five years.

Heritage Counts 2003 is available from English Heritage Customer Services (tel) 0870 331181.

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