The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) gives guidance about ‘Conservation and enhancing the historic environment’. Heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource and should be conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of existing and future generations.
Historic England’s advice for listed buildings with thatch is brief – “existing thatch should be replaced with like for like material unless a strong case can be made for change.” Their guidance documents clarify this by saying – A flexible policy towards the choice of thatching materials and styles in no way compromises “traditionalists”, who do not wish to embrace change. However, policies should also allow those who wish to make professional judgements for change to do so without fear of reprisal.
The UK is fortunate to have such a rich thatch heritage. It is thatchers who take the responsibility for the durability and quality of their workmanship. With thatch an approach to heritage of constructive conservation is the key to its long-term survival. Indeed, government policy defines conservation as the intelligent management of change. To this end thatch and thatching must be allowed to evolve using the very best current materials and methods necessary for its continued survival. In conservation terms, respect for the past is necessary, consideration for a viable future is essential.
Members of the National Society of Master Thatchers (NSMT) endeavour to work in conjunction with local authorities to realistically balance conservation principles, historical accuracy and the demands of modern usage of old buildings, which includes a duty of care to provide a high level of craftsmanship and a sympathetic and flexible approach relevant to every property in their care.