England: historic farm buildings are at risk

Many traditional farm buildings in England are in a state of disrepair, and some are at risk of disappearing altogether, according to a report published Wednesday by the conservation group English Heritage. Historic rural buildings including barns, wagon sheds, outhouses and stables are now more at risk than any other type of historic building in England, according to research by English Heritage and the Countryside Agency government agency.

"While more people than ever are enjoying the benefits of the countryside, the global pressures and uncertain future of farming are threatening these much loved landscapes and the traditional buildings which enliven them," said Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage.

About 2,420 farm buildings listed as being historic - 7.4 percent of England's total - are in a "severe state of disrepair," and it would cost about 30 million pounds (US$52 million; Ђ45 million) to repair them, the report said.

Investing in building repair has the potential to benefit local economies: For example, when the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spent 6.2 million pounds (US$10.7 million; Ђ9.2 million) on repairs in the Lake District National Park in northwest England, the investment generated at least 8.5 million pounds (US$14.7 million; Ђ12.6 million) for the local economy and created at least 25 full time jobs, the AP reports.

But Thurley said most of the English countryside is privately owned and landlords and farmers often cannot meet mounting repair bills. A survey of 200 private owners by the Country Land and Business Association earlier this year showed that owners spent an average of 29,000 pounds (US$50,000; Ђ43,000) per year on maintenance and care of their listed buildings. A.M.

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