Frequently Asked Questions


When was the Buildings at Risk Register founded?

The Register began in 1990, thanks to generous funding from Historic Environment Scotland.

Back to Top

What is the Buildings at Risk Register?

The Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland highlights properties of architectural or historic merit throughout the country that are considered to be at risk or under threat. It was established in 1990 and is maintained by Historic Environment Scotland.

Back to Top

What is a Building at Risk?

A Building at Risk is usually a listed building, or an unlisted building within a conservation area, that meets one or several of the following criteria:

- vacant with no identified new use
- suffering from neglect and/or poor maintenance
- suffering from structural problems
- fire damaged
- unsecured and open to the elements
- threatened with demolition

This list is not exhaustive and other criteria may sometimes be considered when assessing a building for inclusion in the Register.

Back to Top

What is a Listed Building?

A listed building has been recognised and approved by the Scottish Ministers, through their executive agency Historic Environment Scotland, as being of special architectural or historical interest under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997. The listing applies to the whole building or structure at the address named on the list and always covers both the interior and exterior, regardless of category. The local planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing and whether or not other structures at the address may also be considered to be covered by the listing. Buildings are assigned to one of three categories according to their relative importance:

Category A Buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type.
Category B Buildings of regional or more than local importance, or major examples of some particular period, style or building type which may have been altered.
Category C Buildings of local importance, lesser examples of any period, style, or building type, as originally constructed or moderately altered; and simple traditional buildings which group well with others in categories A and B.

Listing a building does not prevent it changing or developing, but it does mean that consideration has to be given to preserving its particular character. Any proposal to demolish, alter or extend a listed building in a way which would affect its character, must be granted listed building consent before it can proceed. Comprehensive guidance on all aspects of Listed Building legislation and advice on best practice can be found on Historic Environment Scotland's website at www.historicenvironment.scot.

Back to Top

What is a Conservation Area?

Conservation Areas are deemed to be of special architectural or historic interest designated for protection and enhancement by the Local Planning Authority. The designation covers not just an area's buildings, but also the historic layout of its roads and paths, characteristic building and paving materials, greens and trees, and public and private spaces. Conservation Area Consent is required for the alteration or demolition of any unlisted building within a Conservation Area, whether in whole or in part.

Back to Top

Does the Register include Scheduled Monuments?

A scheduled monument is a monument of national importance that Scottish Ministers have given legal protection under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. Scheduled monuments are specifically excluded from the Buildings at Risk Register as a matter of policy, agreed with Historic Environment Scotland, as the designation carries with it a presumption against development. Further information on scheduling can be found on Historic Environment Scotland's website at www.historicenvironment.scot.

Back to Top

How does the Buildings at Risk Service assess condition?

The condition of a building is usually assessed during site visits undertaken by the Buildings at Risk Service. Usually based upon a visual inspection of the external fabric, it does not constitute a structural appraisal and independent expert advice should always be sought. The following categories are used to describe the condition of a building, though other criteria often come into play:

Ruinous The building is a roofless shell. Little of the original fabric remains other than the external walls.
Very Poor The building is either extensively fire damaged, partially collapsed, or is suffering from major structural problems. It may be totally or partially roofless, but retains a little more fabric than just the external walls. Very little of the interior remains.
Poor The building has been vacant for a number of years and does not appear to be maintained. Most of the external fabric remains, but there are obvious signs of deterioration such as slipped slates, vegetation growth, broken windows, vandalism, or blocked rainwater goods.
Fair The building is only recently vacant but there is no identified new use. Although previously well maintained, it now requires minor repairs. There are some signs of neglect.
Good The building fabric is generally sound, and its overall condition does not necessarily place it at risk. However, it is under threat of demolition, or its future sustained use is in doubt.

The assessment of condition is solely the opinion of the Buildings at Risk Service.

Back to Top

How does the Buildings at Risk Service assign a category of risk?

A category of risk is assigned to buildings on the Register to describe the extent to which they are at risk. Because a building in a very poor state of repair may be in a stable state, the assessment of risk is not always directly associated with condition. The following criteria are used to assign a category of risk to buildings on the Register:

Critical The building is threatened with demolition, and a real or perceived conservation deficit now makes rescue unlikely. It is suffering from an acute structural problem that could lead to full or partial collapse, and there is an immediate threat of further deterioration.
High There is no immediate danger of collapse but condition is such that unless urgent remedial works are carried out the building will sharply deteriorate.
Moderate The building is in a fair condition but is deteriorating. There are concerns that the building could suffer further decay leading to more serious problems.
Low The building is in a relatively stable condition, but there is a risk of slow decay. Although there is a possibility of reuse, the condition of the building still gives cause for concern.
Minimal The building is vacant but in good condition. At this stage, there is no immediate threat of deterioration.

The category of risk is solely the opinion of the Buildings at Risk Service.

Back to Top

Has the Buildings at Risk Service visited all of the buildings on the Register?

Since its inception in 1990, the Buildings at Risk Service will have visited the majority of properties on the Register. New buildings are not generally placed on the Register until the Service has conducted a site visit and further research (including discussions with local planners where appropriate) has been undertaken.

Once a building is placed on the Register, its condition is monitored through further site visits. Due to the number of properties on the Register, and the location of some of the buildings, it is often impossible to visit all properties on a regular basis. Some may not have been visited for a number of years, and we have to rely heavily on our contacts within Local Planning Authorities for information.

The date of the last site visit will be noted in the Register.

Back to Top

How does the Buildings at Risk Service acquire its information?

The Buildings at Risk Service receives information from a number of sources, including local planners, Historic Environment Scotland, local civic trusts, building preservation trusts, and other heritage bodies. In addition, we are often provided with information by the public, and are keen to hear of any information pertaining to a building appearing on the Register, or of any other building at risk. Updates for the Register can be submitted through the Update Us link on each entry in the Register.

Back to Top

How up-to-date and accurate is the Register?

We strive to ensure that information on the Register is as up-to-date as possible given the resources available. Some information may occasionally prove redundant, inaccurate or incomplete. Information on the Register is subject to change and it is therefore important that you seek to verify information before acting upon it. The Buildings at Risk Service reports to Historic Environment Scotland and local planning authorities on an annual basis. Local planners check the majority of new entries to the Register and review existing entries on an ongoing basis. Given our reliance on other parties for the bulk of our information, some information may occasionally prove redundant. Information on the Register is subject to change, and it is therefore important that you seek to verify information before acting upon it. The Terms and Conditions section provides information on your rights and our responsibilities if information on the Register is found to be inaccurate.

Back to Top

I am the owner of a Building at Risk, Can I request that a building be removed from the Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland?

Only in very limited circumstances would the Buildings at Risk Service consider removing a building from the Register at the owner's request. Our rights and responsibilities are explained in full in the Terms and Conditions section.

Back to Top

Under what circumstances is a building removed from the Register?

The Buildings at Risk Service maintains two secondary Registers: one for demolished buildings and one for buildings that have been saved. A building will remain on the main Buildings at Risk Register until it is brought back into active use or has been demolished. We will note if restoration works have commenced.

Back to Top

Is there a right of access to buildings on the Register?

There is no right of access to any property on the Register without the express permission of the owners. The local authority and Historic Environment Scotland have powers, under the relevant statues, to gain access to a property to ascertain its condition.

Back to Top

Are buildings on the Register safe?

The Buildings at Risk Service has not made a structural assessment from a public safety point of view. Due caution is recommended in all cases. Any safety measures that have been erected must be respected.

Back to Top

Are there any buildings on the Register available for purchase?

Inclusion on the Register does not imply that owners wish to dispose of their properties. The main purpose of the Register is to raise awareness of the existence of Buildings at Risk throughout Scotland and to monitor their condition. Where practicable, we aim to aid the identification of new uses for buildings which will enable them to be saved.

Many owners have recognised the Register as an opportunity to market properties they may wish to lease or sell. All owners of buildings at risk, including health bodies, local authorities, and statutory bodies, can make free use of the Register to publicise a building they wish to sell or lease. The Register provides information on the availability of properties, where known. There are cases where the Service has been advised that the owner is resolutely against selling; this will be noted on the Register and approaches should not be made under any circumstance. Whatever the situation, potential purchasers should always approach owners with tact, diplomacy, and sensitivity.

The Buildings at Risk Service does not act as the agent for properties on the Register, and cannot become involved in any negotiations regarding the sale or lease of any property. The Service simply puts potential restorers in touch with owners or agents, and it is then for the individual parties themselves to negotiate in the usual way.

Back to Top

Does the Register provide details of ownership?

Details of ownership are given where known. When addresses are provided, the Buildings at Risk Service will normally have attempted to inform owners that their properties appear on the Register. As property information is publicly held in Scotland via the Registers of Scotland, under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998 the Service does not require consent from the owner to hold this information. As property ownership may change, information on the Register should be independently ratified.

The Service does not own any of the buildings featured in the Register, nor does it actively ascertain property ownership as a matter of course. The Registers of Scotland can, for a fee, carry out an ownership search, provided the property has changed hands since 1858. They are based at Erskine House, 68 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 4NF, or at 9 George Square, Glasgow G2 1DY. Some property search requests can be submitted online: for full details visit their website at www.ros.gov.uk.

Back to Top

Does the Buildings at Risk Service own any of the buildings on the Register?

The Buildings at Risk Service does not own any of the buildings on the Register, neither does it act as agent for the properties shown. The Service cannot become involved in any negotiations regarding the sale or lease of the property.

Back to Top

What financial help is available for the renovation of a Building at Risk?

The Buildings at Risk Service does not assign or administer grants, and the inclusion of a building on the Register does not imply that it will be automatically eligible for grant aid, though eligibility is noted where known. The Architectural Heritage Fund has established an online guide to grants at http://www.ffhb.org.uk/. The Buildings at Risk Service generally advises potential restorers not to embark upon a project unless it can be fully financed without grant aid.

Back to Top

Will the restoration of a building on the Register be automatically acceptable to the authorities?

Any proposal affecting a listed building will require Listed Building Consent even if it is a Building at Risk. The details of any scheme will be considered on its own merits. Planning authorities have a statutory duty to have special regard to any proposals that affect the character of a listed building, its setting or any features of architectural or historic interest that it may possess. The best course of action is to engage in early discussions with the relevant planning authority before developing firm proposals.

Back to Top

How should I approach the purchase and renovation of a Building at Risk?

Always seek expert advice, preferably before purchase. Advice should also be sought from the local planning contact given in the property details and from Historic Environment Scotland, as well as from qualified architects, quantity surveyors, and structural engineers. Carry out a design and feasibility study, no matter how large or small the undertaking, and do not underestimate the length of time that the renovation project may take.

Back to Top

What powers exist to protect Buildings at Risk?

A number of statutory powers are available to local planning authorities and Historic Environment Scotland, designed to protect the built heritage. Some of the most commonly exercised are explained below.

Building Preservation Notices can be served on unlisted properties, granting them the same protection as listed buildings for a period of six months whilst they are assessed for listing.
Urgent Works Notices can be served on vacant listed properties and allow the local planning authority to undertake emergency works such as the erection of supportive scaffolding or temporary roof structures.
Dangerous Building Notices can be served on both listed and unlisted properties, and require the owner to make safe or demolish a building that poses a threat to public safety. Repair Notices can be served on both listed and unlisted properties, and specify those works considered reasonable and necessary for the preservation of a building, along with a timescale within which these works should be completed. Failure to comply within the specified deadline may result in works being undertaken by the local planning authority, and a charge being made to the owner(s).
As a final measure, planning authorities can apply for a Compulsory Acquisition Order if there has been a continued failure to comply with Repair Notices served on a listed building. However, it should be noted that there is no statutory duty requiring planning authorities to implement any of the above.

Additionally, the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004 introduced a statutory management scheme called the Tenement Management Scheme for all tenements in Scotland. It provides a structure for the maintenance and management of tenements if this is not provided for in the title deeds. The Tenement Management Scheme also contains default provisions on emergency repairs and the apportioning of costs. Under the Bill, a tenement will not only include typical tenement flats but also modern flat developments, high-rise tower blocks and villas which have been converted into two or more flats. It applies to commercial as well as residential properties. For further information, see The Scottish Government website at www.scotland.gov.uk.

Back to Top

What powers exist to protect the grounds or setting of a Building at Risk?

The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1997 requires the planning authority to consider the setting of a listed building in their consideration of any development proposal affecting it.

Any development proposal that may affect a historic garden or designed landscape as recorded in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland, compiled by Historic Environment Scotland, will require their consultation.

Back to Top

What statutory powers do the Buildings at Risk Service have?

The Buildings at Risk Service do not have any statutory powers, nor does a building's presence on the Register afford the building any additional statutory protection.

Back to Top

What is a Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS)?

A Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) fund provides assistance from Historic Environment Scotland for area based regeneration and conservation initiatives undertaken by local authorities. Funding assistance is either through support to establish a Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme or through support for a Heritage Lottery funded Townscape Heritage Initiative.

Back to Top

What is a Townscape Heritage Scheme (THI)?

The Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) is the Heritage Lottery Fund's grant-giving programme for the repair and regeneration of the historic environment in towns and cities throughout the UK. The scheme was born of the HLF's desire to deliver sustainable conservation in historic urban areas by raising the standard of repair where the market has failed to do so, and by bringing new uses and new life back into areas which have lost their traditional economic base. It encourages partnerships to carry out repairs and other works to a number of historic properties within those areas, and improve the quality of life for all those who live, work or visit there. Further information can be found on the Heritage Lottery Fund website at www.hlf.org.uk.

Back to Top

What is a World Heritage Site?

The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage is an international agreement that was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972. It is based on the premise that certain places on Earth are of outstanding universal value and should therefore form part of the common heritage of mankind. World Heritage is the designation for places on Earth that are of outstanding universal value to humanity and as such, have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. More information on World Heritage can be found at http://whc.unesco.org/.

Back to Top

Who should I contact if I have any further questions regarding Buildings at Risk?

Contact the Buildings at Risk Service at:

HES
John Sinclair House
16 Bernard Terrace
Edinburgh
EH8 9NX

Tel +44 (0)131 651 6854
Email: barr@hes.scot

Historic Environment Scotland is a Non Departmental Public Body established by the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014 and is a charity registered in Scotland No. SC045925. Charity registered address: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Edinburgh.

Back to Top