SLASHING VAT rates could be the key to bringing a disused historic building back to life.

A new Historic England report says that cutting the tax rate to zero or even 5 per cent, the rate charged for many office-to-flats conversions, would often make long-awaited regeneration financially viable.

The change could also speed up the move to zero-carbon in construction. Building new homes produces up to 13 times more embedded carbon dioxide than refurbishing a Victorian building, says the report: There’s No Place Like Old Homes, Reuse and Recycle to Reduce Carbon.

The report has been welcomed by a campaign group, which hopes to see development at the mill buildings.

Keith Wheatley, spokesman for Wellington Mills CIC, said: “Tonedale has had planning permission for conversion to apartments for many years. The problem has been that the costs, when you include 20 per cent VAT, didn’t make it a profitable project.

“A simple decision from Number 11 could change that.”

“It’s ridiculous that it’s currently 15 per cent cheaper to convert a block of 1970s offices than to rescue a beautiful part of our industrial heritage. Add in the saving in carbon and it makes the idea is a no-brainer.”

Historic England’s call has been backed by the influential Country Land and Business Association who have written to the chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for the change to be introduced in the latest budget.

“This is game-changing research,” said Ben Cowell, chair of the Historic Environment Forum, a coalition of heritage groups.

“It shows how living in the past can help us to step into a carbon-friendly future.”