Tuesday January 16, 2006

Britain’s historic sites, buildings, palaces and gardens are awaiting £1 billion of repairs, according to a new report by leading heritage organisations. Although heritage is one of the country’s main tourist attractions, less is spent on it per head than in other European countries such as Italy and Norway, it says, with over 17,000 buildings now at risk in England and the backlog of repairs growing steadily.

The report, entitled ‘Valuing our Heritage ? The case for future investment in the historic environment’ reveals that English Heritage (EH) has seen its spending fall by £19.6 million in real terms over the last 5 years. ‘English Heritage’s grant in aid from Government increased by only 3% between 2000 and 2006,’ said Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of EH. ‘Inflation during this period was 8.5%. Over the same period, the Government’s grant to Sport England has increased by 98%, and the grant to Arts Council England increased by 53%.’

Heritage protection, educational initiatives and EH grant aid require an annual £37 million of additional funding, according to the document, which was presented to the Government yesterday. ‘It is all too easy to take Britain’s historic environment for granted, but without constant attention and investment our buildings and monuments fall into disrepair and ruin’, said James Hervey-Bathurst, President of the Historic Houses Association. ‘This funding equates to less than 80 pence per person. For that investment, we can secure a unique bequest to future generations, of architecture and history which touches each and every one of us.’

Anthea Case, Chairman of Heritage Link added: ‘Valuing our Heritage presents Government with a major opportunity to halt the decline in the state of thousands of historic buildings, to ensure a simpler and faster heritage protection system gets implemented successfully, and to broaden audiences and get more people involved with the historic environment.’

Valuing our Heritage ? The case for future investment in the historic environment

Proposals

  • Heritage Protection Review

    Ensure necessary levels of skills are available. English Heritage alone requires £5m per year to lead and support the introduction of a new system of heritage protection, arising from the Heritage Protection Review, on which a White Paper is expected in February. The review must also be implemented effectively at local level. An additional sum will be required to fund Local Authorities’ expenditure.

  • Places of Worship

    Support frontline restoration and preventative maintenance for Listed Places of worship (£9m per annum)

  • Grant Aid

    Restoration of English Heritage’s grant in aid to 1997 levels (£3m per annum); introduction of a fiscal incentive for maintenance (£10m per annum); and an increase in the National Heritage Memorial Fund as a funder of last resort for heritage at risk (£10m per annum). (£23 m per annum total).

  • Education

    Invest in increased opportunities for people to enjoy, learn about and get involved with the historic environment; and support educational initiatives to take learning outside the classroom and into heritage venues.