IHBC Yearbook 2015

30 Y E A R B O O K 2 0 1 5 SKILLS DIVERSITY IN SNOWDONIA JONATHAN TAYLOR The need for the protection of large areas of countryside was recognised after the war by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Centred on the mountain range of Snowdonia and covering some 800 square miles, Snowdonia National Park was the first national park in Wales. Its population of around 25,000 is swelled by an influx of six million visitors per year from across the UK and abroad. Although renowned for its wild landscapes and rocky shore line to the west, its architectural heritage is no less rich, with picturesque villages like Betws y Coed and Beddgelert, and its hills and valleys are peppered with agricultural buildings, dry stone walls and other structures. These tell the story of those who lived and worked here in the past, and how they used the local materials to survive in an often unforgiving environment. This landscape is of exceptional importance, not only aesthetically, historically, and ecologically, but also economically, not least to the jobs that depend on the annual influx of visitors. Conserving this landscape requires a diverse range of skills, from those of conservation professionals and specialist consultants to those of contractors and conservators, owners and other stakeholders. Their working relationship is key to the success of each project and good, clear communication is crucial. HERITAGE AT RISK Arguably one of the greatest problems facing the historic built environment is redundancy and under-use. A survey carried out for Cadw in 2013 revealed that almost one in ten listed buildings in north-west Wales is at risk. When you include listed buildings that are ‘vulnerable’, the figure rises to almost one in four. Within the Snowdonia national park the most serious problem is redundant agricultural buildings and structures. As a result of changes in farming and land management practices, many traditionally constructed buildings in the area are now underused or redundant. For example, in the past, storage requirements were often small and local, but modern farming favours large centralised barns accessible by tractor and trailer. Adaptation and re-use may be possible where a barn adjoins a house, but often their location and scale prevents alternative use. For the local authority, Snowdonia National Park Authority (NPA), this problem is well recognised. The authority maintains a register of listed buildings deemed at risk and its conservation officers carry out quinquennial surveys to monitor their condition. Condition is graded, with categories 1–3 classed as ‘at risk’ and categories 4–5 as ‘vulnerable’. Currently over 1,900 listed buildings are on the register, of which just over 300 are categorised as at risk. Over a third of these are agricultural buildings, predominantly in the most at risk categories (53% of category 1 and 49% of category 2 are agricultural buildings). Bats have re-occupied the restored barn Despite increasing financial pressures, the authority has maintained its grant scheme to support the repair of listed buildings, and £90,000 is dedicated to supporting those at risk each year (categories 1–3). Eligible costs include repairs to the external envelope, structural repairs and related consultants’ fees. A redundant barn near Harlech photographed in 2009 during Snowdonia NPA’s inspection for the listed buildings at risk register; and below, the colony of lesser horseshoe bats discovered inside the barn in 2011. (Photos: Snowdonia NPA)