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Chancellor under fire; Protest over Budget move gathers pace.

Byline: Patrick Joseph

ABROAD coalition of organisations has written to the Chancellor urging him not to press ahead with a 20% increase in VAT on approved alterations to listed buildings.

A total of 17 organisations have signed a letter to George Osborne 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. Signatories to the letter include the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Federation of Master Builders, the Heritage Alliance and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The rise, which was introduced by the Government in an attempt to crack down on tax avoidance by the country's richest people, has been roundly criticised in the North East.

Churches in particular say they will be affected by the plans, with the Dean of Newcastle, the Very Rev Chris Dalliston, saying the moves would add pounds 200,000 to plans for a pounds 3m restoration project at the city's St Nicholas Cathedral.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders 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.

"Furthermore, we shouldn't underestimate the role these buildings play when it comes to supporting our local economies.

Heritage tourism contributes over pounds 20bn a year to the UK economy, supporting almost half a million jobs."

Last week a Government minister said churches would be compensated for the introduction of VAT on renovations.

But representatives of the construction industry point out that aid for churches will do nothing to address the recent decline in their work which pushed the country into recession last week.

Mr Berry added: "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."

Kate Pugh, chief executive of The Heritage Alliance said: "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."

The letter has been 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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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 2, 2012
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