DIY Means Heritage Is History; Heritage Experts Claim Our Environmental Quality of Life Is Being Eroded by Poor Council Planning and Dodgy DIY. Community Affairs Reporter Neil Connor Takes a Look at English Heritage's New Report Which Explores the Threats to the Midlands' Architectural Legacy
Byline: Neil Connor
Birmingham has always prided itself on being a city of a thousand trades, but a skills gap across the Midlands is causing untold damage to our heritage. The concerns have been raised by English Heritage which has not only uncovered a scarcity in specialist skills to maintain thatched roofs and medieval timber but also in the basic DIY knowledge of homeowners.
Campaigners believe the problem is causing untold damage in conservation areas, particularly as local councils do not have the specialist officers to crackdown on illegal alterations to properties.
The national Heritage Counts 2003 report says that local authorities are over-stretched, with on average fewer than two conservation officers in each authority, to deal with 1,200 listed buildings and 28 conservation areas.
Launching the Midland report, Her-itage Counts 2003 -the State of the West Midlands' Historic Environment, at the Heritage Skills Centre in Hatton, Warwickshire yesterday, Mary King, chairman of the West Midlands' Historic Environment Forum, also raised concerns about funding for conservation.
She said: 'Drawing together the information for this report, it is clear that the contribution of the historic environment to regional life is enormous.
'The benefits it brings to community life, education, the regional economy and regeneration are illustrated by some excellent projects spanning the length and breadth of the region. From housing to nature reserves, from heritage skills training to tracing the history of the people who lived here decades ago.
'Yet despite all the positive developments it is clear that our regional heritage is under threat.
'A diminishing skills base means that the high standards of craftsmanship required to maintain the resource are increasingly inaccessible. At the same time, the burden of maintaining the historic environment is increasingly prohibitive, with less money available to fund essential maintenance and repairs.'
Concerns have also been raised that homeowners eager to 'improve' their properties with new doors and windows are in danger of tearing down England's architectural heritage.
The report calls for more thought over piecemeal changes which it says are eroding heritage on England's doorsteps. The research found that in one conservation area, 95 per cent of buildings had non-matching replacement windows, and in another 54 per cent were of a different style. …