ARCHITECTURAL treasures in the Capital will be “badly hit” under plans to charge VAT on alterations, critics of the move warned today.
From October, approved changes to listed buildings, which are currently exempt from tax, will face VAT bills of 20 per cent.
Religious, business and political leaders said the hike could damage the city’s architectural legacy and undermine efforts to convert older buildings into modern public facilities.
Reverend Dr George Whyte, clerk at the Presbytery of Edinburgh, said the VAT change was “worrying” ahead of the planned £900,000 overhaul of St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church.
He said: “They’ll have to find extra money – it clearly adds to the cost. For projects like that it makes them harder to do.
“We have around 70 listed buildings and to make them fit for purpose today means changing layouts and access – that’s what will be hit.
“There’s a £900,000 programme of works at St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church that has been agreed.
“The future use of the building is based on it being an open, flexible and accessible space. To find out without warning about this change in VAT is deeply worrying.”
Lynne Cranston, owner-founder of the Architectural Interiors practice, said listed buildings currently undergoing alterations were now facing a race against time to finish the job.
She said: “The change means you only have until October to finish any work. Either you race to get it done or you go back to your contractors and try to renegotiate on price, but that then means you’ll be cutting back on the design.
“This will certainly have an effect on all of the town houses that have been offices and are now sitting on the market.”
Joanna Mowat, Conservative councillor for the city centre, which includes the World Heritage Site, said: “I’ll be making an appeal to say that this is not right and I think this will threaten the city centre – over time it will undermine what makes the city so special.”
Edinburgh North and Leith MP Mark Lazarowicz added: “My constituency includes many historic buildings, and is likely to be particularly badly hit by the change.”