Last edited 26 Dec 2020

Local Authority Conservation Services continue to decline

This article was created by The Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) and originally appeared in the IHBC NewsBlogs

IHBC General People.jpg

IHBC research, funded and published by Historic England, shows the nation’s local authority conservation services have continued to suffer in what is now (2016) a decade of cuts, as conservation capacity reduced by a further 0.5% in the last year, with a shocking cumulative decline of 36% since 2006.

James Caird, IHBC Chair said: ‘The continuing decline in local authority conservation staffing is disappointing. This is not least as it ignores substantial evidence that local conservation services are the best way - and best value - for LPAs to carry out their statutory duties under the Planning Acts as well as promoting heritage as a driver for urban and community renewal.’

‘The IHBC is doing what we can to mitigate impacts that are otherwise outside our control. We collaborate sector-wide and in partnerships with like-minded bodies, such as the CIfA and the RTPI; offer national and local training; publish guidance, such as our Research and Guidance notes in our Toolbox, as well as offer advocacy resources, such as our ‘Why Local Authorities need conservation skills’ web site.’

IHBC President David McDonald, said: ‘Our evidence, both statistically and anecdotally shows that local authorities are increasingly unable to cope with the pressure of applications and therefore not able to play a full part in meeting the government's planning objectives.’

IHBC Director Sean O’Reilly said: ‘It is especially unfortunate too that much the same long-term, sorry story is also told by the parallel archaeology service data collected by ALGAO, in work also funded by Historic England, which shows a structurally damaging 13.5% fall in local authority archaeological specialists in the last year alone.’

Fiona Newton, who led the IHBC’s role in the wider project, said: ‘This Eighth Annual Report on Local Authority Staff Resources captures the dramatic impact of local government cutbacks on heritage management. Whilst the scale of the decline in conservation specialists has reduced to 0.5% in the last year, it still continues to fall each year and since 2006 the number of conservation specialists has fallen by 35.8%.’

‘At the same time, in the last 12 months alone the number of planning application decisions increased by 3.6% and Listed Building Consent decisions increased by 0.62%. Whilst not the whole picture of the workload of conservation staff ,these increases illustrate the picture of rising workload and decreasing resources.’

For more recent background on conservation services see for example: Richard Bate in Context at and the IHBC’s website on LA skills at

Download the Eighth report

See more resources on our listing of papers at and on our Toolbox at

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