Heritage white paper will fail without more cash

Heritage bodies have warned that the government's plans to improve heritage protection will fail unless they are properly funded.
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Simon Stephens
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Most organisations have responded positively to the white paper, which was published last month and aims to create a simpler and more efficient system for protecting heritage. The main proposals include uniting listed buildings, scheduled monuments, parks, gardens, battlefields and World Heritage Sites under a single designation scheme.

Designation decisions will move from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to English Heritage, the government's adviser on the historic environment. The white paper also aims to make applying for consent for work on designated properties easier by giving greater responsibilities to local planning authorities.

'The success of the reforms depends on whether the extra capacity, skills and resources are put in place to deliver them,' said Tony Burton, the director of policy and strategy and the National Trust, which has more than 300 historic houses. 'A guarantee of extra resources for local authorities in particular is essential to the success of the white paper.'

A statement from the trust said it is already concerned that investment in heritage has been falling in recent years and would like to see measures in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) to 'reverse the cycle of decline'.

Nick Way, the director general of the Historic Houses Association, which represents 1,500 properties, said: 'We fully support the intentions of the Heritage Protection Review but it must be properly resourced to ensure that the listing regime is faster, more transparent and certain.

Investment is needed to enable both English Heritage and local authorities to lead and implement the changes. Resources for conservation are already very stretched in most local authorities and critically inadequate in some.'

Other organisations, such as the Institute of Conservation and Heritage Link, which represents voluntary workers in the heritage sector, have also said the reforms will fail without proper funding.

But culture secretary Tessa Jowell, who launched the white paper, said that while she 'recognised the increased responsibilities for English Heritage, we are in the middle of a spending review, and don't know what the results will be'.

A spokesman for the DCMS said it estimated that the implementation costs for English Heritage would be '£5m a year for five years and that cost has been factored into our bid to the treasury' for the CSR. The spokesman said estimating costs for local authorities was more difficult because the DCMS did not control their spending.

Simon Stephens

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