English Heritage (EH) insists it ‘remains committed’ to the 140-year-old Blue Plaques scheme commemorating the former London homes of the great and the good, despite conflicting reports in the press.
The Government quango has suffered swingeing cuts and says it can no longer sustain running the £250,000-a-year department that administered the scheme. Questions have been asked as to why the popular scheme, which EH took over in 1986, is so difficult and expensive to run-there are more than 100 other local schemes, with plaques of varying shapes and colour, in existence-and an EH spokesman says it must become ‘more cost effective and more self-sustaining’.
Therefore, applications for plaques, which take two months to complete by craftsmen, have been suspended and the next two years will be spent erecting the dozen or so that have already been approved by an expert panel, which includes Stephen Fry, Gavin Stamp and Sir Andrew Motion.
Last week, one was placed on 66, Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, former home of the architect John Nash (1752-1835), who designed Brighton Pavilion and Regent Street.
Loyd Grossman, former chairman of the Blue Plaques Panel, comments: ‘Because of severe cuts to its budget in recent years, EH is under a great deal of pressure to continue delivering a wide range of services that the public and the heritage sector value.
Distinctive, informative and often entertaining, Blue Plaques are, I think, a particularly valuable part of the EH portfolio and much cherished as a vivid marker of London’s rich and varied history. I know EH is working hard to ensure there will be a sustainable future for the scheme.’
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