/ Justin Fenton / Conservation

We see conservation both as a role we play but also as a support for all the projects we do - our oft repeated mantra is that every project sits within some conserved context. That understanding is now underpinned by a host of supportive documentation contributing to the methodology we apply. They include statutory legislation, charters and policies, publications, pilot studies building on empirical data and crucially, information on potential funding streams.

Part of our role is to absorb these streams of information and advise our clients and colleagues accordingly. Two strands of interest stand out - technical support and funding. Much valuable work is being carried out by various bodies to provide technical expertise for a wide range of issues. Historic Scotland's contribution is particularly significant.

We have over 400,000 existing buildings so it can be understood their seeking to influence building owners through a raft of initiatives in policy and advice notes. A key policy area is Historic Scotland's Climate Change Action Plan for Scotland 2012-2017. Historic Scotland studies highlight the need to prioritise fabric improvements given that energy efficiency in historic buildings show energy losses of 25% through roof, 35% through walls, 20% through windows and 10% though the floor.

In support of these policies, Historic Scotland have issued 16 Technical Papers ranging from the first on the thermal performance of traditional windows to the most recent on Green Deal Financial Modelling of a traditional cottage and tenemental flat. In addition, 31 Technical Advice Notes are available and are of more general interest addressing subjects as diverse as Preparation and Use of Lime Mortars (TAN 1), The Archaeology of Scottish Thatch (TAN 13) and Earth Structures and Construction in Scotland (TAN 6). (Refer publications)

An example of the importance of these technical papers can be seen in the building site assessment of ‘u’ values for plaster and lath being measured in reality as 1.0W/m2k as opposed to 1.5W/m2k allowed in the regulations - a huge validation for retention and improvement of existing buildings.

Supporting these technical papers are various attempts to make clearer the potential for funding support. The Heritage Lottery Fund provides clear Conservation Grant Funding advice. A whole range of projects and grants are clearly identified by HLF including Sharing Heritage, Heritage Grants and Grants for Places of Worship. Where can we help? We think there are a number of ways.

Curiously, one is interpreting the information out there in easier to understand ways. For example, in relation to the HLF Grants for Places of Worship we have created a series of explanatory tables to show clients what needs to be done by them as applicants to access these grants and the implications of so doing. For example making it clear that the Places for Worship scheme funding now explicitly requires the funded building to open its doors on up to 40 days other than normal times of worship.

The other is drawing attention to the important and wide role of trusts. Trusts play a critical role in funding and we have built an understanding of who is out there and their potential in different situations.

Standing back, it has to be said that there is a sophisticated environment supporting the maintenance, restoration and regeneration of our historic fabric. Without it, our historic legacy would be under huge stress.

It therefore seems paradoxical that we should create artificial restrictions on carrying out this work. The draconian imposition of VAT at 20% on building works associated with our heritage would seem to be an unfair penalty.

It is one area where we understand the limitations of our knowledge. We think that VAT advice needs to come from the appropriate experts. We can however give guidance as to who is out there giving that advice from a fully up to date and engaged perspective.

The best advice, however, would be to remove it...but that is for our politicians.

The Stables, Cambo Estate, Fife