Our role in saving Victorian and Edwardian buildings

Victorian and Edwardian buildings are irreplaceable, cherished, diverse, beautiful, familiar and part of our everyday life. They contribute overwhelmingly to the character of places people love and places where people live. They belong to all of us. Their owners are really only custodians for future generations.

Our aims are:

  • CONSERVING: to save Victorian and Edwardian buildings or groups of buildings of special architectural merit from needless destruction or disfigurement.
  • INVOLVING: to awaken public interest in, and appreciation of, the best of Victorian and Edwardian arts, architecture, crafts and design;
  • EDUCATING: to encourage the study of these and of related social history and to provide advice to owners and public authorities in regard to the preservation and repair of Victorian and Edwardian buildings and the uses to which they can, if necessary, be adapted

The aims are linked, and through involving and educating the public, we can increase the likelihood of conserving buildings.

As a reservoir of expertise, as energetic campaigners, and as a community organisation bringing together individuals from all round the country, we have helped people save the buildings they value. Sometimes it has been major national monuments such as the Albert Memorial in London or the Albert Dock in Liverpool, but more often nowadays it is local churches threatened with closure or good houses flattened to make way for undistinguished offices.

Changes to listed buildings must be approved by local planning authorities or denominations that have been exempted from local planning control. We want to help local planning authorities and churches make better decisions about adapting Victorian and Edwardian buildings to the way we live now, while keeping what is special about them.

To do this, we comment on applications for listed building consent or faculty. We have a formal role in the planning system by virtue of the Secretary of State's Arrangements for handling heritage applications Direction 2015. Under this Direction we must be notified of all applications for Listed Building Consent that involve an element of demolition. When determining applications, local planning authorities must take our response into account, but they are not obliged to follow our recommendations. We also have a formal role in the various listed building control procedures set up by those Christian denominations which have chosen to retain their exemption from normal listed building regulations.

We receive funding from Historic England's National Capacity-Building programme to cover part of the costs of our casework, for which we are very grateful.

We do not attempt to comment on every notification we receive. Instead, we respond when we consider that the proposals are damaging to the historic character of the property concerned, and where our expert input might result in a less destructive outcome. Our responses highlight the historic and architectural importance of each site and explain in what way the proposals are detrimental. We bring the experience of our architectural advisers, our buildings committees and other advisers to bear on each case to deliver considered responses which draw on an exceptional breadth of knowledge.

Victorian and Edwardian buildings are part of our collective memory, and central to how we see ourselves as individuals, communities and as a nation.

When decisions are taken which affect their future, the debate must be open and informed. We need to understand what is special about Victorian and Edwardian buildings and landscapes so that any necessary changes can be incorporated without damaging them forever.