Plans to make historic castles ‘green’ may cost public £20m

CONTROVERSIAL demands by ministers for Scotland’s historic properties to be fitted with energy saving measures could cost taxpayers up to £20 million, it has been estimated.

Under the Scottish Government’s drive to cut carbon emissions all buildings in the country will have to reach a good level of energy efficiency by 2033.

No exemptions are in place for castles, country houses or other landmarks under the care of Historic Environment Scotland (HES), the public body responsible for protecting the nation’s built heritage.

Last month HES installed solar panels on the roof of the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle – at a cost of £50,000 – after drawing up plans to reduce energy use across its properties, which also include Stirling Castle and Falkland Palace.

The program includes installations of solar panels at other sites, replacing gas heating with renewable energy and cutting water consumption.

It is currently working on a detailed assessment of what to do at each individual property and how much the work will cost.

Leading architect Alan Dunlop estimated the bill could reach between £10 million and £20 million and called for exemptions for the most important historic sites.

“Retrofitting Scotland’s historic buildings will be a huge architectural and engineering undertaking,” he told the Herald on Sunday.

“The fact HES is being forced to do this work I think is unfair. The costs will be astronomical. I would say absolutely that if we are talking about a complete retrofit of large historic properties – not only putting in solar panels, but new energy sources, ground source heat pumps, insulation, the costs could easily come to between £10million and £20million. I don’t know if they have the resources to do that.”

He added: “The Scottish Government now they are in partnership with the Greens have an almost messianic attitude towards making everything green to the cost of everything else.

“They don’t seem to want to consider any other options, which I find frankly bizarre. The partnership between the SNP and the Greens is probably pushing this agenda.

“Category A buildings are our most important buildings – of national and sometimes international significance and solar panels on the roof are unsightly.

“So there is a real design issue here. How do you respect the category A listing by installing solar panels?”

His views have been supported by the Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden who accused ministers of a heavy handed approach.

“While the Scottish Conservatives are in favor of making homes as energy efficient as possible, these iconic, historic buildings must be exempt from retrofitting requirements,” he said.

“The SNP Government are being far too heavy-handed here. The cost of these changes would not only be exorbitant, but making them would alter the architectural fabric of these buildings irreparably.”

Homes and buildings currently account for about a fifth of Scotland’s C02 emissions and in his Heat in Building strategy Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Greens co-leader and minister for zero carbon buildings, set out a target to cut these emissions by more than two thirds by 2030.

The subject was highlighted in Holyrood last week when culture minister Neil Gray confirmed historic buildings would be expected to comply with Mr Harvie’s energy savings targets for buildings.

“The Scottish Government is working with stakeholders, including Historic Environment Scotland, to develop approaches and solutions that will decarbonise Scotland’s historic buildings and places while respecting their special characteristics,” Mr Gray told MSPs.

“Although I have not met with Mr Harvie in relation to this issue specifically, the Scottish ministers take collective responsibility for all decisions that are reached by the Scottish Government, and will continue to do so. That includes our commitment that all buildings reach a good level of energy efficiency, where it is technically feasible and cost effective, by 2033.”

Mr Gray did not say whether extra funding would be given to HES.

Mr Golden told the Herald on Sunday: “While the Scottish Conservatives are in favor of making homes as energy efficient as possible, these iconic, historic buildings must be exempted from retrofitting requirements.

“The SNP Government are being far too heavy-handed here. The cost of these changes would not only be exorbitant, but making them would alter the architectural fabric of these buildings irreparably.”

A spokeswoman from Historic Environment Scotland said the cost for the installation of the solar panels at Edinburgh Castle was approximately £50,000 and the project was supported by a grant from Scottish Enterprise.

She said: “As outlined in our Climate Action Plan 2020-2025, HES is committed to reaching net-zero by 2045, in line with Scottish Government targets, by halving our annual emissions over the next ten years and beyond. The plan details a range of measures and objectives that will allow HES to reduce energy consumption, these include a commitment to eliminate gas heating from our sites, with all our energy obtained from renewable sources by 2032 and optimise energy efficiency improvements at all sites by 2028 .

“Between 2020-2021 HES continued to make a positive emissions contribution to net zero, with carbon reduced by 34.8%, bringing the total reduction over 2014 – 2021 to 54.6%.”

“We have an ongoing program of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that have delivered energy, cost and carbon savings in our estate including installation of low energy systems and solar panels and reducing water consumption.”

“We are currently undertaking an in depth assessment of technologies and approaches that will be suitable for the rest of our varied and unique estate. This assessment will identify the opportunities, challenges and costs associated with this work.

“Due to the range of properties in our care, which often differ substantially in their age, materials and construction, our program of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects is not one size fits all, but there are certain principles that can be applied to ensure traditional buildings are part of the solution to a net-zero future.”

She added: “Many of our sites across the HES estate have negligible carbon emissions, however our larger visitor attractions such as Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle present different challenges and opportunities to reduce energy consumption.”

Culture Minister Neil Gray said: “We are committed to working with stakeholders, including Historic Environment Scotland, to develop solutions to transition Scotland’s historic buildings to low and zero emissions heating while respecting and preserving the special characteristics of our buildings.

“In this current financial year the Scottish Government will provide £70.1 million to Historic Environment Scotland and we will continue to work with them to consider what support is needed for listed buildings, or those in conservation areas, to meet regulatory requirements.

“We also welcome the recent publication of the agency’s Green Recovery Statement which recognises the importance of maintaining our historic and built environment in a sustainable way to support our transition to net zero and a climate-resilient economy.”

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