English Heritage says that traditional farm buildings in England are in danger of disappearing.

Traditional farm buildings, which make up the largest single category of England’s listed buildings, are fast disappearing, according to English Heritage’s latest annual audit of the historic environment.

Over half a million traditional farm buildings are believed to exist in England, of which more than 30 000 are listed. But they are under threat from changes in agricultural practices and economic pressures on farmers.

“More people than ever are enjoying the benefits of English Countryside,” said English Heritage commissioner Bill Bryson. Traditional farm buildings enliven the countryside, but “the pace of change to these buildings has never been so great,” he added. They form the biggest category on local authority registers of buildings at risk.

Almost a third of listed barns, wagon, sheds, outhouses and stables have been converted, mostly to residential use. But such conversion can be most damaging if done without care and attention, adds English Heritage, partly as a result of a shortage of craft skills in the countryside.

On the positive side, the report, Heritage Counts 2005, shows that investment in farm building repair pays dividends. Government expenditure of £6.2m in the Lake District National Park saved 655 farm buildings and resulted in the generation of up to £13.m in the local economy. The repair scheme also created up to 30 full time jobs locally.