Conservation Advice

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the SPAB’s remit in terms of the casework that it handles?
Our casework resources are very limited and therefore we concentrate on commenting on listed building consent applications that will have a physical impact on individual buildings with fabric dating from 1720 or earlier.  We are not generally able to get involved in cases related to more recent structures or to address wider concerns about the implementation of conservation area controls and local planning policy issues at this time.

Q. Does the SPAB deal with issues affecting the setting of listed buildings?
Generally no, but there are other sources of advice on this issue and other organisations that may be able to assist:

Q. Does the SPAB support good modern design?
Yes, we believe that new work should ‘complement not parody’ the original and that ‘modern needs should be expressed in a modern [architectural] language.’ We therefore advocate high quality design and craftsmanship which is sympathetic to the original but does not attempt imitation.  Work that sets out to replicate or emulate the original designer’s work will inevitably confuse the history of a building or mislead the onlooker. It is also unlikely to be successful and risks compromising the original’s integrity. Where a change or alteration is justified, we urge that it is done honestly and in a sympathetic manner, but in a style of our time.

Q. Why does the SPAB not condone conjectural restoration
Our ideas about how to treat old buildings have evolved from the Manifesto written by William Morris in 1877 and are elaborated in our Principles. A key tenet of our philosophy is the view that when an old building or parts of it are lost it is better to create something new but respectful rather than recreating something that no longer exists. Essentially, we believe that attempting to restore a building to an arbitrary and unknown point in time is damaging to its authenticity and integrity as it creates a false and misleading impression of its history and evolution. Restoration also removes the opportunity to add to the architectural record by creating something new and so there is a double loss. There are also further negative consequences when a building is restored to a certain degree but then altered to suit new needs and uses – in this case it is neither an academic / historically accurate restoration nor something new and of its time.

Q. Do I have to pay VAT on repairs on my listed building?
Yes. VAT has always been payable on repairs to all buildings but until 2012, if your building was listed, you might not have had to pay VAT on approved alterations. However, in the 2012 Budget the Government announced that VAT would be charged on all works of repair and alteration to listed buildings. The SPAB and other conservation bodies continue to lobby Government on this issue but as yet there is no hope of a change in the regime.

However there is a grant scheme for Listed Places of Worship that offers a ‘refund’ where VAT has been paid on worked to historic churches. In addition the HM Revenue & Customs website offers various VAT notices and information sheets.

Q. Does the SPAB offer grants towards repairs or maintenance?
The SPAB is not a grant giving body. Indeed it relies on fundraising itself, and any donations would be most welcome. The Society does have one or two small funds for specific purposes, the significant ones being The Thomas Hardy Memorial Fund for repairs to buildings associated with him, particularly in Dorset; and the Misses Newcombe Bequest for repairs to almshouses in use. If you have a project that might be eligible from either of these specific funds, please write to the SPAB for an application form and further details.

Q. How do I find out about grants for a listed building?
Grants for repairs to listed buildings are increasingly hard to find as money for them is extremely short. Do not rely on obtaining one. This is specially true for newly acquired buildings, where generally the grant making body will assume that the purchase price took into account the cost of any necessary repair and modernisation works. Policies may vary slightly in different countries of the UK, but are broadly similar. For private owners the main possibilities can be identified via two online databases:

Q. Where can I get advice on energy efficiency issues?
If it is necessary to consider the thermal upgrading of your property then great care will be required in order to ensure that the chosen materials and techniques do not trap moisture within the fabric.  There is a substantial risk of interstitial condensation occurring if the materials are not specified appropriately.  Further advice on responsible approaches to upgrading the fabric of older properties can be found on the following websites and we strongly recommend that building owners make use of these resources:

The SPAB has also been carrying out some research into the energy efficiency of traditional buildings. More information can be found in our dedicated Energy Efficiency section.