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The Georgian Group

PVC windows - an aesthetic and environmental nightmare
Let's abandon PVC!

PVC windows and doors are everywhere - but not only do they wreck the appearance of historic buildings, they are deeply damaging environmentally, releasing toxins into the atmosphere at all stages of production and disposal. Consumers have been gulled by effective marketing into believing that PVC is an efficient insulator - but traditional softwood sash windows can provide insulation that is just as effective, while allowing buildings to breathe, maintaining the appearance of historic buildings and, most importantly, not contributing to a toxic timebomb.

Our view
PVC windows and doors should be banned in conservation areas and on listed buildings and the prohibition should be rigorously enforced by planning authorities. Outside conservation areas, householders should be encouraged to restore original fittings such as sash windows or replace them like for like with fittings from sustainable sources. Consumers should be alerted to the damaging environmental effects of PVC. The Government should consider fiscal disincentives including an environmental tax on PVC producers and purchasers.

Consumers are more and more discerning, less willing to buy environmentally unsound products and better prepared to source fixture and fittings appropriate to their properties. Suppliers and restorers of traditional fittings such as wooden sash windows are increasingly easy to find. And, we hope, planning authorities are more willing to back up their policies for conservation areas with action against transgressors. The elements are in place for a backlash against PVC. So what are we waiting for?

PVC versus wood - find out more...

Wood windows better than PVC - WWF Report
A guide for residents on alternatives to PVC - Sustainable Homes
Danger - toxic PVC - Greenpeace
Why bother with old windows? - Northern Ireland Environment & Heritage Service   
Trade Secrets of a Window Maker - Country Life 
Irish say No to PVC windows - Archiseek

Who makes and repairs traditional wooden sash windows?

Sash Repairs Ltd
Sash Style Directory
The Original Box Sash Windows Company
Timber Windows
Sash Windows UK
Newtown Renovations (Edinburgh)
Moulder Joinery (Wiltshire)

What you can do

  • Ensure that you use appropriately-designed doors and windows on your own property.
  • Encourage your friends and neighbours to do the same - useful campaigning information and suppliers' details are given above.
  • E-mail us, in confidence if you wish, to let us know about inappropriate use of PVC or to tell us where it has been successfully resisted. Please include digital images if possible. We will take up cases, good and bad, with the relevant planning authority. 
  • Write to your local planning authority asking them what their policies are on PVC on historic buildings and what steps they are taking to enforce them.
Need advice or information? Ask us.


High-Speed Rail

Railways sliced through numerous estates in the nineteenth century, causing huge controversy, and the associated conservation problems could resurface with the proposed new investment in high-speed rail, a reaction to the perceived environmental costs of domestic air travel. The potential for conflict is perhaps greater now, as feasible route corridors have been narrowed by suburban and rural development and open land, much of which is protected, is comparatively the line of least resistance. One possible casualty is the eighteenth century Hartwell estate in south Buckinghamshire, visited by Georgian Group members in August and clipped on its eastern side by the current alignment of the planned HS2 line from London to Birmingham, which also passes close to the Waddesdon estate.

Our view
We have made our voice heard, alongside those of the National Trust and other campaigning bodies, and will seek to mitigate the effects on designed landscapes, ideally through rerouting so that they are avoided altogether on the adopted route.

Construction is not expected to start before 2017 but a Hybrid Bill giving power to build the line and safeguarding the preferred route is likely to go before the current (2010) Parliament.        

Saving Bishops' Palaces

Hartlebury Castle in Worcestershire (historic residence of the Bishops of Worcester for 800 years) has already been sold off, Rose Castle in Cumberland (Bishops of Carlisle) is at severe risk and Auckland Castle seems likely to be next in line for sale by the Church Commissioners, who have presided over significant investment losses over the past twenty years (culminating in 2009/10 in a £40m loss on a bad property deal in Manhattan) and who view the palaces and their contents as a way of recouping some small portion of the losses. The contents of Auckland are also valuable, notably a set of twelve Zurburáns (pictured) bought in 1756 by Richard Trevor, then Bishop of Durham as a sign of solidarity with English Jew after his Jewish Emancipation Bill fell in the Commons; so they represent religious tolerance as much as a fundraising opportunity. Andreas Whittam Smith, First Church Estates Commissioner, has said that ‘the simple equation is how much money can be raised to be used for the clergy…We are not custodians of great works of art’.

Our view
As Charles Moore has countered, ‘it is not a simple equation at all. As the established Church, the CofE is the holder of national patrimony. Such things are not ‘assets’ to be traded, but almost as much part of what it is as its liturgy or its cathedrals. Its artistic treasures represent a huge cultural and religious achievement which should not be sacrificed to the producer interest, especially when so many of the clergy no longer do parish work, but swell diocesan and synodical bureaucracies. If the Church had a right relationship with its heritage, it would throw it open to the public, and use it as the material for its teaching ministry’.

Concerted action from campaigners, including us, has led to a period of grace at Hartlebury, to allow a dedicated friends’ group time to rise the money to buy the building and its unique eighteenth century Bishop’s library; unhelpfully, a lottery bid to assist the fundraising effort was scuppered when the Heritage Lottery Fund deemed to Church’s valuation of Hartlebury to be too high. We will exert what pressure we can to achieve transfer to a charitable trust if the Church presses ahead with plans to sell Auckland, which is perhaps at greater risk owing to its greater commercial potential. 


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Tel 087 1750 2936 / info@georgiangroup.org.uk / Registered Charity No. 209934