2 March 2021

Cut the VAT on Heritage and Traditionally Built Buildings

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) has been calling for a VAT reduction on home repairs for well over a decade and will continue to do so; however, NFB Heritage has been considering the implication of such a cut on listed and traditional buildings and recommends that a VAT cut should start with traditional and heritage build.

A heritage focused cut will produce better traditional building custodians, while helping the Government meet its commitment to local listing and historic Britain. It will help the UK meet its zero carbon targets by appropriately retrofitting the least energy efficient buildings and stimulate a pipeline of opportunity for heritage and traditional build experts, material retrofit producers and the next generation of desperately needed traditional and retrofitting apprentices.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said: “The greatest challenge to the UK’s retrofitting agenda is its 500,000 listed buildings, 1.2 million homes in conservation zones and 7 million properties with solid walls. Yet these buildings are put in constant jeopardy by inappropriate, cheaper works.

This means that non-Listed traditional buildings are often retrofitted or refurbished with non-traditional building materials, causing lasting harm.”

The high cost of sustainable products is a major barrier. Traditional wooden windows and doors, which are the most energy efficient, sustainable material and should be used in all homes, can last more than six times longer than UPVC but cost up to six times as much. Many people therefore opt for heritage looking UPVC, despite needing to be replaced much sooner and using unsustainable materials.

Many traditional building works experience prohibitive costs, so do not get completed correctly or at all, such as: irregular joist sizes; the correct style external wall insulation; mechanical ventilation and damp proofing

Clare Watson, chair of NFB Heritage underlined the need for heritage and traditional works to see a VAT cut. “Materials are only half the battle of well-done preservation and retrofit works of this type using high skilled labour is becoming increasingly niche. We therefore also need to reduce the burden on those training and retaining our traditional build and heritage experts.

We call on the Government to cut the VAT on specific heritage materials and works to 0%; the same rate demolition and new build sees. The heritage sector will work with the Government to identify which traditional building materials and products would qualify for the cut.

This challenge is enduring; therefore, we urge the Government to use its March budget to put the wheels in motion and protect our most complex to retrofit buildings and move closer to meeting our zero carbon ambitions.”