Results of an annual survey of listed building owners by the Historic Houses Association for Scotland (HHAS) have revealed an alarming backlog in urgent repairs members cannot afford to make.
The number of historic homeowners affected has increased by an extraordinary 125% since 2009, with the collective repair bill now standing at over £57m. At the same time, the findings reveal that the amount spent annually on repairs to houses in Scotland has fallen to around £14m.
Chairman of HHAS Alick Hay commented:
“The survey provides a bang up to date picture of the contribution that Scotland’s independently owned historic houses, castles and gardens make to the national economy as nearly 40% of members from across the country took part*. We are therefore particularly concerned to learn of the backlog in repairs going unchecked. The reality is that owners’ resources for maintenance have been squeezed by a combination of rising costs and the economic downturn, not to mention a series of unseasonably wet summers prior to 2013”.
67% of HHAS member houses are open public with 33% regularly opening to ‘day’ visitors and a further 34% welcoming visitors by appointment. Historic houses have also diversified to become venues for conferences, social events and concerts and around a quarter of all historic houses in Scotland now market themselves as wedding venues.
Alick Hay continued:
“The findings around repairs are distressing although not necessarily a surprise given the economic climate. The imposition in April this year of restrictions on the ability of many owners to spread exceptional losses across their wider income – a key support for public opening – will further reduce the resources available for essential maintenance. It is crucial that both the Scottish and UK governments now recognise the importance of these assets and work with owners to ensure their future”.
Director of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs at Scottish Land & Estates Sarah Jane Laing commented:
“The results demonstrate the outstanding contribution privately owned historic houses and gardens have made in terms of delivering public access and the diversity of business activities that owners have undertaken to generate the income necessary to ensure the survival of our historic assets. Scotland’s historic houses are more than ever engines of economic activity in rural areas and centres of artistic and cultural excellence. Significant investment is required to enable them to continue to play these crucial roles in the future.”
Scottish historic houses and their gardens are key players in their local economies, particularly in rural areas, where other opportunities for employment and business activity are often limited. More than 2,200 people are directly employed at Scotland’s historic houses or in businesses occupying premises in their grounds and historic houses support nearly 4,000 businesses by purchasing from local suppliers.
Other key findings from the survey – the largest of its kind in the UK – demonstrate the very significant contribution historic houses make to supporting charities and their local communities. In Scotland 40% host charitable and community events and 43% raise funds for, or make donations to charities.