CHANCELLOR George Osborne has been urged not to press ahead with a 20% increase in VAT on approved alterations to listed buildings.
Seventeen organisations, including the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Federation of Master Builders, the Heritage Alliance and the Royal Institute of British Architects have signed a letter 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.
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.
“This might mean improving listed town centre buildings, converting redundant farm buildings or renovating town halls and community buildings for the enjoyment of all.
“Furthermore, we shouldn’t underestimate the role these buildings play when it comes to supporting our local economies.
“Heritage tourism contributes over £20bn a year to the UK economy, supporting almost half a million jobs.”
Mr Berry said: “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.
“The Treasury has acknowledged this increase in VAT will have an adverse effect on the construction industry and we already know projects are being cancelled or curtailed.
“Under EU law, once the zero rate of VAT has been removed it cannot be reinstated. Therefore, we are urging the Government to reconsider its decision in order to prevent a further decline in the industry at this time.”