Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Joint Committee of the National Amenity Societies

  1.  The Joint Committee of the National Amenity Societies notes that the Culture, Media and Sport Committee has included under the terms of this investigation "whether the existing good causes should be reviewed, whether some should be dropped and/or whether new good causes should be introduced". We should like to offer the following comments on this aspect of the Committee's deliberations.

  2.  Before doing that I should explain that the Joint Committee was established in 1972 to co-ordinate the strategic activity of those national conservation societies which enjoy a statutory role under the listed building consent procedures since then. The principal members of the Joint Committee are the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Ancient Monuments Society, the Georgian Group, the Victorian Society, the Twentieth Century Society, the Garden History Society, the Council for British Archaeology and the Civic Trust. Observer status is enjoyed by kindred organisations like the National Trust, the National Trust for Scotland and Government Departments such as the DCMS and the DETR. Much of our attention in recent months has been concentrated on lobbying Government over the present VAT regime which is weighted against the repair of listed buildings.

  3.  The Joint Committee continues to believe that the creation of the Heritage Lottery Fund in 1995 was the best single piece of news for the conservation of historic buildings since the Second World War. With over £300 million a year to spend in the UK as a whole, with an allocation towards historic buildings of between £80 million and £90 million, it is saving buildings which would otherwise have collapsed or been torn down, parks which had fallen into shabby neglect and churches which would otherwise have closed.

  4.  At a time when the English Heritage budget for distributing in grants is under £40 million a year, EH regularly runs out of grant monies months before 31 March, and Historic Scotland has spent its grant allocation two to three years in advance, HLF funding is essential even if that aspect of its work is the result of Government parsimony in not funding its own quangos adequately.

  5.  However, the HLF is not there simply to supplement English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Cadw or the DoE (Northern Ireland). The essence of HLF's success is precisely its ability to offer a source of money that is "additional" to that gained from the tax payer. This is reflected in its programmes where it can go beyond restrictions on Government agencies to finance not just repair but purchase (as with Pugin's remarkable house at The Grange in Ramsgate where HLF largesse allowed the Landmark Trust to buy). The HLF is able to pay for feasibility studies, to finance the employment of staff to look after the buildings or landscapes once conserved and, albeit in exceptional circumstances, to endow the historic site in question. Recent press reports have spoken about the possibility of one of the great 18th Century Treasure Houses, Hagley Hall in Worcestershire, coming onto the market. The only fit solution for a house with such fabulous contents would be vesting with the National Trust and only the HLF would be rich enough to play the lead role in providing the endowment without which the NT would not accept vesting.

  6.  The HLF also has an excellent record in broadening and deepening the educational possibilities of "The Heritage"—either through its campaigns within museums, through encouraging training as part of its grant aided programmes, by requiring that access is a key element in all its grants, or by direct sponsorship of scholarship as in the surveys to tabulate 20th Century military structures, synagogues and other historic Jewish buildings and public monuments and statues.

  7.  "The Heritage" is everywhere. There is not a planning authority in the United Kingdom that has not got at least 25 listed buildings and all have at least three conservation areas. Britain's system of protection, being the most comprehensive in the world with 480,000 listed buildings, 9,500 conservation areas, 18,000 scheduled monuments and 1,500 registered parks and gardens, recognises both the wealth of the inheritance of the last several thousand years but also its ubiquity. The work of the HLF is indispensable in ensuring that this remarkable legacy is handed on, in better fettle and more appreciated and understood than by any previous generation.

  8.  The Joint Committee had reason to welcome very warmly the decision of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to confirm "Heritage" as a "good cause" beyond the expiry of the Camelot licence. We feel very strongly that the issue should not be revisited now so soon after the decision has been taken, for this merely feeds uncertainty, not just for the distributors but particularly for recipients. A number of HLF programmes have long "lead ins", particularly that for Urban Parks. This normally follows the format of an HLF sponsored feasibility study, then the submission of plans for Approval in Principle, with a detailed consent thereafter, much of that phased because of the ambitious nature of the project and the sheer size of many of the parks involved. The Joint Scheme for Places of Worship in Use is deliberately targeting urgent high-level repairs given the huge over-subscription in applications, and it would be quite unfair if further programmes of work were to be undermined by a sudden loss of finance.

  9.  We urge the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to support the continuation of "Heritage" as a "good cause". If the Committee feels otherwise we would greatly value the chance to submit further evidence in the hope of persuading it to our view.

September 2000

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