English Heritage consultation launched

The DCMS has finally launched its delayed consultation on the future of English Heritage (EH). This sets out the proposed split of English Heritage in January 2015, with its statutory responsibilities passing to a body called Historic England, which will continue to be supported financially by the Government.

The name English Heritage will pass to a charity responsible for ‘the conservation and public enjoyment’ of the 420 historic sites in the care of the Secretary of State; it will receive a one-off £80 million investment (to which an additional £5 million has now been pledged) and declining Grant-in-Aid from the Government until 2022/23. Of this grant, £52 million will substantially be directed towards the repair of State monuments.

How the charity can become financially self-sufficient in eight years is unclear. Evidently, it must increase visitor numbers, membership and levels of volunteering and fundraising – all at a time when competition for these things has never been more intense. For all their importance, the 420 sites in State care constitute only 0.1% of listed buildings.

There is also the view that Historic England looks like a rump in this re-organisation and remains vulnerable to cuts, and the question of whether EH’s diminishing sums of Grant-in-Aid will be depleted to prop it up. Loyd Grossman, chairman of the Heritage Alliance, says it’s a timely reassessment: ‘We must secure the best possible outcome for our historic environment-it is, after all, one of the greatest assets this country has.’

Crispin Truman, of the Churches Conservation Trust adds: ‘Any strategy for financing heritage must consider the interrelation of income streams and the way in which public grants encourage private support.’ Historic Houses Association president Richard Compton says: ‘We wish to see the new arrangements succeed. Our members depend on English Heritage’s expert advisory service and we would be very concerned if this were to be diluted. We will seek assurances that Historic England will be able to give priority to its frontline services, its statutory role in the planning system and the maintenance of a grants programme for restoration.’

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The consultation closes on February 7.

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