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The significance of significance


Unlike some surveys, conservation compels the surveyor to take a holistic view of the property – understanding its construction, the materials used, why they’ve been used and when to use them for repairs or renewals. It is based on principles rather than exact science – one size does very much not fit all.

All Listed Building Consent applications require a Heritage Impact Design and Access Statement. Historic England who are ultimately responsible for granting consent require that this document is produced by a “competent heritage professional”. This is because the documentation relies on an understanding of ‘significance’ and accountability for any damage caused to that significance through work. This is covered in NPPF – Chapter 16.

For example, on a Grade II listed house one might be able to replace windows without a Listed Building Consent application, but if they have been mentioned as being of “significance” by Historic England, a full LBC application will be required and perhaps other items like a timber survey or even a justification statement for the work.

On receiving her full membership to the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), our principal surveyor Melissa now has the level of knowledge and expertise to produce these documents for clients in need of LBC. The process to become a member is similar to becoming a chartered surveyor but this allows Melissa to work on Heritage Lottery Funded projects too.

Coughton Court, used within permissions of DeFacto Projects that relied on the knowledge of significance came up frequently in Melissa’s previous role at the National Trust. A poky room with a bit of cloth on the walls in Coughton Court may not seem like much, but when you know that bit of cloth is the ‘Tabula Eliensis’, which depicts the persecution of Catholics and that the poky room is where the mothers of the conspirators of the gun powder plot were when they learned of their sons capture, this does ultimately give the room “significance”.

On top of her IHBC qualification, Melissa has a Post Graduate diploma in Conservation of the Historic Environment, and a Masters in Conservation too, with her dissertation being on the impact on historic buildings of climate change. Melissa has also incorporated green technologies into refurbishments – removing gypsum plaster on damp solid stone walls and replacing it with hemp lime and introducing PV panels and air-source and water-source heat pumps, where allowed.

As important as it is to keep these buildings as close to their original states as possible, it is also a priority to sustain these buildings’ lives for as long as possible too, for future generations.

If you are interested in seeing if your building is significant, call Melissa on 07725 630 452, or email her on

The image of Coughton Court is used within permissions of DeFacto.