The process of listing buildings has been simplified in a Government White Paper, issued today (March 8). House owners will now be consulted when their property is being considered for listing and will have the right to appeal. The legislative framework also protects buildings from any hasty demolition or alterations while listing is pending.

In 2005 the power to list buildings was devolved to English Heritage from the Department of Culture Media and Sport ? a move welcomed by English Heritage. The White Paper aims to provide a more efficient and effective system to protect the historic environment, whilst still allowing owners to make relevant alterations to their properties.

‘This White Paper is a vote of confidence in the expertise and ability of English Heritage, both for taking responsibility for the designation of the nation’s heritage and in helping to create the best possible system for its protection and management,’ said Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage. ‘These suggestions are the results of years of research, testing and advice from English Heritage and we are confident they will provide a more efficient and open system.’

In a bid to bind together archaeology and buildings, the Paper proposes a combined register for all protected sites, monuments, gardens and marine sites, and a single, simple consent application procedure for each different type of site. The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has expressed optimism towards the White Paper: ‘What’s needed is a heritage protection system which safeguards what is of real significance while allowing carefully-considered change to keep historic buildings relevant and financially-viable in the modern world,’ said CLA president David Fursdon.

English Heritage hopes the new system will allow decisions to be made more quickly. Selection guides for buildings will be published as well as for other types of historic asset and the protection for vulnerable sites will also be stepped up.

‘Inevitably we have concerns about details, the timescale, the continuing lack of financial help for heritage, and especially the resourcing of the local authorities who will actually operate the new system, but this long-awaited White Paper is a significant step forward,’ Mr Fursdon added.