Last edited 12 Mar 2023

Main author

Institute of Historic Building Conservation Institute / association Website

Energy Security Strategy and heritage

John Preston writes: The government’s Energy Security Strategy, published in April (2022), included: ‘Reviewing the practical planning barriers that households can face when installing energy efficiency measures such as improved glazing, including in conservation areas and listed buildings. This will be completed by the end of 2022 and ensure protection of local amenity and heritage, whilst making it easier to improve energy efficiency.’

This review manifested in four regional DCMS/BEIS/ DLUHC roundtables, focused on building owners. Complaints about lack of representation of the heritage sector led to a late additional roundtable for the Historic Environment Forum. The review is apparently part of a wider review including the NPPF, building regulations and energy performance certificates, among other things, but there was no sense of joining up. It was disconcerting that no sustainability or building control officers took part in the roundtables.

The retrofit risks which led to the introduction of PAS 2035 are being ignored in favour of deregulation. The departments still clearly have not grasped the interactions between planning, conservation and building regulations, or the urgent need for freely available, impartial advice. In the roundtable I attended, there were complaints about ‘conservation officers who don’t have zero carbon on their agenda’. There are current widespread perceptions that any perceived value for money from the planning process is massively reduced by the lack of trained and aware planning and conservation (where they exist) staff, compounded by the fees charged for pre-application discussions.

To counteract these, we urgently need good case studies showing where and how regulatory involvement has added value, and for all conservation officers to have the skills and knowledge to provide it. If you can think of good case studies, please send them to [email protected].

How many Context readers take part in Open Eco Homes, Green Doors or similar schemes? I urge you to take any such opportunities, if only to challenge your own perceptions. I went on a Cambridge Open Eco Homes visit to a very thought-provoking ‘Deep green, 17th-century retrofit’ in Suffolk, about which I will write in a future issue.

The Energy Security Strategy also promotes solar: ‘For rooftop solar, we will bring down bills and increase jobs by radically simplifying planning processes with a consultation on relevant permitted development rights and will consider the best way to make use of public-sector rooftops.’ Difficulties in getting permission for solar photovoltaics were raised by a number of owners in the roundtable I attended.

Some think that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’ s listed building order, which gives consent for solar panels on most Grade II and II* listed buildings, will set a precedent. But a location behind the parapet of a London town house is very different to most historic roofs, which are highly visible and have characteristic irregularities of colour and texture.

A hybrid application (external parts planning permission, the whole under faculty jurisdiction) is now under consideration for one of the most exceptional behind-the-parapet roofs of all: King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. Have a look at application number 22/03811/ FUL, at

John Preston is heritage chair of the Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance and vice chair of the IHBC policy committee.

This article originally appeared as ‘Climate change update’ in the Institute of Historic Building Conservation’s (IHBC’s) Context 174, published in December 2022.

--Institute of Historic Building Conservation

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