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Builders join heritage lobby in calls for listed buildings VAT plan to be axed

2 May 12 A coalition of organisations has written to the chancellor of the exchequer urging him to drop plans for a 20% increase in VAT on approved alterations to listed buildings.

Seventeen organisations, including the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Federation of Master Builders, the Heritage Alliance and the Royal Institute of British Architects, have signed a letter describing the disruption the budget measure is already causing to planned building projects and the threat it poses to the future of the UK’s historic buildings.

Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry said: “All of our organisations feel strongly opposed to the government's decision to remove the zero rate of VAT on approved alterations to listed buildings because it makes it so much harder to give them a sustainable future. Sympathetic alterations are often needed to ensure our historic buildings can continue to be of social, cultural and economic value. This might mean improving listed town centre buildings, converting redundant farm buildings or renovating town halls and community buildings for the enjoyment of all. Furthermore, we shouldn’t underestimate the role these buildings play when it comes to supporting our local economies. Heritage tourism contributes over £20 billion a year to the UK economy, supporting almost half a million jobs.”

Mr Berry continued: “We all saw the recent GDP figures showing that a decline in construction sector output helped drag the economy back into recession in the first quarter of 2012. So it is deeply difficult to understand why the government is taking a decision that will lead to a further fall in construction activity. The Treasury has acknowledged this increase in VAT will have an adverse effect on the construction industry and we already know projects are being cancelled or curtailed. Under EU law once the zero rate of VAT has been removed it cannot be reinstated. Therefore, we are urging the government to reconsider its decision in order to prevent a further decline in the industry at this time.”

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Heritage Alliance chief executive Kate Pugh added: “The 20% increase in VAT will make it a great deal harder for the charitable and private sector to carry out their responsibilities for looking after our heritage on behalf of the nation. The decision is entirely at odds with the government’s assertions elsewhere that it is committed to promoting the reuse of historic buildings to support economic growth. All of the organisations that have signed this letter will be responding to the consultation in order to challenge the government’s justification for this change and we would urge others to do the same.”  

The letter to the chancellor was signed by the Building & Engineering Services Association, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Country Land & Business Association, the Countryside Alliance, the Electrical Contractors' Association, the Federation of Master Builders, the Glass and Glazing Federation, the Historic Houses Association, the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, House Beautiful, the Listed Property Owners Club, the National Federation of Builders, the National Federation of Roofing Contractors, the National Home Improvement Council, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and The Heritage Alliance.

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