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Preserving the integrity and aesthetics of heritage property

Heritage Open Days, which celebrate England’s extraordinary architecture and culture by offering free access to places usually closed or charging for public admission, have grown in popularity. They are organised by a partnership between The Heritage Alliance, Civic Voice and the National Trust. In 2012 some 43,000 volunteers helped make it the most successful in its 18-year history. Every record was smashed; more visitors, more  volunteers, more events and more awareness than any year previously.

Understanding the importance

We are acutely aware of the importance of preserving the originality of historic/heritage properties and the problems this can, on occasion, create for owners who permit visitors access to their premises.

In 2003 we defended the interests of a parochial church council (PCC) of a medieval church in a claim brought by  a visitor who allegedly stumbled on an uneven pathway. Accepting the defence we put forward on behalf of the PCC, the judge stated:

“…it would be highly undesirable if we required the appearance of our medieval country churches to be infected by warning notices or surrounded by flat grating systems which was suggested to be the appropriate solution in this case. Such an attitude would offend anyone’s sense of reasonableness and proportionality especially taking into account the costs of such remedial works and the damage to the aesthetic features of the building”

  • English Heritage  

    “For English Heritage, it is vitally important that any changes we make to our sites in the interests of our visitors’ safety do not compromise the integrity of the historic fabric, nor the various other ways in which our sites are significant. Striking the right balance is crucial.”

    Jeremy Ashbee, Head Historic Properties Curator, English Heritage

In 2008, the same defence team represented a cathedral in a claim brought by a visitor who sustained injury after she stumbled and fell as a result of placing her foot in a depression in the surface of a stone step leading to an ancient Saxon crypt. The claimant contended that the step should have been ‘repaired’ and that a handrail should have been provided.

In dismissing the claim the court concluded that given the nature of the premises, the depression did not
create a foreseeable risk of injury and that is was not reasonable to expect a handrail to be fitted. The Judge confirmed that in attempting to reduce the risk of injury, alterations to the fabric of the building should be regarded as “a remedy of last resort”.

  • The Heritage Allianace  

    “Sharing our heritage and the vivid stories that bring it alive is one of the most exciting ways of getting people to understand and care for our historic buildings. The Heritage Alliance is delighted that its sponsors Ecclesiastical are championing the importance of appropriate insurance to make sure the experience is a pleasure for all.”

    Kate Pugh, Chief Executive, Heritage Alliance

Ecclesiastical Insurance Group plc (EIG) Reg No 1718196. Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc (EIO) Reg No 24869. Ecclesiastical Life Ltd (ELL) Reg No 243111. Ecclesiastical Financial Advisory Services Ltd (EFAS) Reg No 2046087. Ecclesiastical Underwriting Management Ltd (EUML) Reg No 2368571. E.I.O. Trustees Ltd Reg No 941199. EdenTree Investment Management Ltd (EIM) Reg No 2519319. All companies are registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester GL1 1JZ. EIO and ELL are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 113848 (EIO) and 110318 (ELL). EFAS and EIM are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference Number 126123 (EFAS) and 527473 (EIM). EUML is an appointed representative of EIO who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 402228.