Buildings are listed if they are judged to have architectural or historic significance, and so to be worthy of preservation for future generations. Owning a listed building is therefore both a privilege and a responsibility. Many listed buildings are owned by people of modest means – some of whom may have bought the building before it was listed.
It tends to be more expensive to maintain a listed building than a non-listed one, because any work must be done in a sympathetic manner – often using highly skilled craftsmen, as well as traditional materials.
If the aim of listing is to preserve our built heritage, it seems an anomaly that VAT relief is only given on work that actually changes that heritage. Admittedly it is important to provide an incentive for sympathetic alteration to buildings whose original use has expired, so that they can be adapted to new uses. But surely there should also be an incentive to maintain those buildings that are entirely viable as they stand.
It is unfair to restrict property owners’ choices in terms of how they go about maintaining their property, and then tax them on any maintenance they carry out. Not only that, but it is actually damaging to the built environment, as the VAT costs may mean the difference between an owner being able to carry out necessary work, and not being able to afford it – and so allowing their property to sink into disrepair.
I therefore urge you to take the logical choice of extending VAT relief to the repair and maintenance of listed buildings. This can only have positive outcomes – not just for the building owners, but also for the listed buildings themselves and for the specialist tradesman who are keeping traditional crafts alive.