Canada House (Grade II listed) on Chepstow Street in Manchester.
Canada House (Grade II listed) on Chepstow Street in Manchester. (Photo: LJ Partnership)

Independent retailers, as a group, occupy the most number of listed buildings in England, but their number is falling since 2012, down by 18 percent to 51,151.

A report, Heritage Counts, by Historic England on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum reveals that 36 percent of the traders in listed buildings are independent retailers, way ahead of branded retailers, who occupy 13 percent of the sites.

However, branded retailers are increasingly choosing to trade from listed buildings. Since 2012 the number of listed buildings occupied by a brand has increased by 154 percent to 18,550.

This has also contributed to the overall preference for listed buildings. Research carried out in 50 cities and town centres in England shows that the number of listed buildings occupied by a business has increased by 18 percent since 2012, from 10,465 to 12,353.

When applied to all towns and cities, estimates suggest that there are now approximately 142,000 businesses operating in listed buildings across England.

Pub chains Greene King and Marstons top the table as the largest branded retail occupiers of listed buildings. They are closely followed by large coffee chains like Caffe Nero, Starbucks and Costa. There has been a surge in well-known food and drink brands trading from listed buildings – between 2012 and 2018 they increased occupation by 173 percent to 4,754.

However, independent operators in the ‘eat and drink’ category far outweigh their branded counterparts, with 21,626 sites and a share of 15 percent among the overall figures.

Independent retailers and independent eat and drink operators together account for over half (51%) of the listed buildings.

The findings also show a rise in the number of commercial businesses operating from listing buildings, up 50 percent to 36,749 in 2018. Businesses in professional and non-professional services and the creative industries (including advertising, architecture, art, crafts, design, fashion, film and music) are also choosing historic settings.

The research also reveals the vital contribution of heritage to the nation’s economy, providing new homes, jobs and attracting tourists and generating a larger Gross Value Added (GVA) than arts and culture, the aerospace industry, defence industry and security industry.

Between 2011 and 2016 the heritage sector contribution to GVA has increased by 37 percent, from £21.1 billion to £29 billion, equivalent to 2 perecnt of national GVA.

When direct GVA is compared, England’s heritage sector generated a larger GVA (12.7bn) than the arts and culture industry (10.6bn), aerospace industry (10bn), defence industry (9.4bn) and security industry (5.3bn) in the UK.

The report comes after a £55 million boost to high street heritage assets across the country, which was announced as part of the £675 million Future High Streets Fund in this year’s Autumn budget.

Michael Ellis, Heritage Minister, said: “The increase in businesses trading from listed buildings shows that heritage remains at the heart of our high streets and society. It proves that these buildings are not just attractive, but also adaptable for the modern world. We are committed to promoting and protecting the nation’s historic architecture and through our £55 million package for heritage on the high street, will work with businesses to help breathe new life into our listed buildings.”