3rd July 2020
The Hot Topic – Protecting Listed Buildings & Heritage Gardens Against Crime
Britain’s heritage buildings and gardens have been inherited from our past and preserved for future generations to enjoy… but some criminals see this as a money-making scheme.
Heritage crime has been an issue for listed buildings and heritage gardens for years and it hasn’t shown signs of slowing down in recent times. Crime against heritage sites varies from arson, anti-social behaviour, illegal metal detecting to vandalism and graffiti; destroying our precious history for future generations to learn and enjoy.
Just this year, back in February, cases of illegal metal detecting, or ‘nighthawking’ as it’s commonly known, have more than doubled in the last 2 years within English Heritage sites. According to I News, “The charity warned such activity was ‘robbing’ society of its past after it recorded 12 incidents in 2019, compared to just 5 two years earlier.” The act of nighthawking is the illegal search for historic artefacts, usually overnight, without the permission from landowners or on protected land. A clear example of these crimes affecting our heritage sites can be seen back in 2018, where illegal nighthawkers swept the fields of Northumberland hunting for Roman treasure at Hadrian’s Wall. The “nighthawkers” were suspected to have dug up more than 50 holes along the side of the ruins.
Alternatively, a third of historic property owners have suffered at the hands of arson, graffiti and theft of precious items. Reports show, from a survey of owners, that 92% felt vulnerable to crime on their properties, with 3 in 10 having had direct experience of burglary, arson and graffiti. As reported by The Guardian, “One victim was physically attacked by four masked intruders in a listed property in Hertfordshire. Another discovered raw sewage dumped on their Grade I listed parkland.”
The aforementioned survey also highlights heritage property owners’ frustrations towards planning restrictions preventing them from replacing unsecure windows and doors for those that offer more protection and appropriate insulation. With the inability to upgrade the security of these properties, are they just sitting ducks waiting for criminals? Many have argued they are obvious targets for crime compared to modern houses.
So, what could be implemented to help protect these properties from crime without damaging listed buildings?
Temporary physical security measures could be the solution these premises need to keep intruders off their land. Many temporary physical security measures are foundation free, meaning there would be no land or property damage to these heritage sites. With planning restrictions for a lot of these places, permanent fencing and other security measures are unsuitable for these grounds. Perimeter protection that has zero ground strike would still deter and delay intruders before accessing properties, allowing owners to contact police, and prevent these heritage crimes.
So, the hot topic asks; with restrictions on permanent security measures put in place to protect heritage properties, why does this mean owners should risk their safety? Could the implementation of foundation free temporary fencing be the answer to prevent heritage crime?
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