Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Annex 2





  1.1  English Heritage (EH), as the Government's lead body for the historic environment, has a wider range of statutory, advisory and executive functions than most other DCMS NDPBs. Because its sphere of interest is so broad, spanning both the urban and rural environments and encompassing public, private and voluntary sector interests, it also has an unusually extensive set of working relationships.

  1.2  At a national level these range from central government departments and their NDPBs to key non-governmental conservation agencies and private-sector professional associations. Across the country they include regional development agencies and cultural forums, local authorities, amenity societies and community partnerships.

  1.3  Beyond its institutional relationships, EH has one-to-one relationships with the 11 million people who visit its properties each year, its 400,000 members, and the tens of thousands of members of the public who make use of its grant-aid, advisory, educational and information services.

  1.4  As well as being numerous, EH's working relationships vary in character, depending on the function they support, including EH's role as:

    —  a supplier of services and advice to government and the public;

    —  the lead policy and facilitating body for the historic environment sector;

    —  a principal sponsor of works and services through grants and commissions;

    —  a joint or supporting partner in programmes and projects led by others.

  1.5  In the current quinquennial review of English Heritage careful consideration was given to EH's relationship with the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Royal Palaces and the Royal Parks Agency. While the need for the close partnership and coordination of their activities was acknowledged, it was concluded that no clear financial or operational benefits would result from the formal merger of any of their functions.


  2.1  EH was originally sponsored through the Department of the Environment, but was transferred in 1992 to the new Department of National Heritage (DNH, subsequently the DCMS). Within DCMS, EH sits alongside other NDPBs with responsibilities for different aspects of the built environment and portable cultural heritage:

    —  Historic Royal Palaces.

    —  The Royal Parks Agency.

    —  The Heritage Lottery Fund & New Opportunities Fund.

    —  CABE (The Commission for the Architecture and the Built Environment).

    —  Re:Source (The Museums, Archives and Libraries Commission).

    —  English Tourism Council & Sport England.

  2.2  The initial statements of DNH/DCMS purpose made almost no reference to the built heritage, focusing instead almost exclusively on sport, tourism and the creative arts. As a result, EH found it difficult to fit its own statutory conservation duties into the DCMS agenda of contemporary cultural and sporting priorities.

  2.3  In 1999 the Culture Select Committee noted this shortcoming and recommended that the DCMS should provide stronger strategic direction for the heritage sector. In response, the DCMS and DETR (now DTLR and DEFRA) jointly commissioned EH to coordinate a major review of policies for the historic environment, whose results were published in November 2000 under the title Power of Place.

  2.4  The Government's response to the recommendations of Power of Place was published in November 2001 under the title The Historic Environment: A Force for Our Future and provide the first comprehensive statement of government priorities for the historic environment.

  2.5  As Power of Place has made plain, EH's curatorial, and access functions sit comfortably alongside the DCMS's other cultural and tourism interests, but its planning, conservation and regeneration functions relate much more closely to the work of the DTLR and DEFRA. EH has established effective operational relationships with both departments, but the lack of any formal constitutional relationship has hampered it from developing the level of integrated joint-working that is needed.

  2.6  Amongst the key conclusions of the current quinquennial review of EH is expected to be a recommendation that the DCMS, DTLR and DEFRA work together to draft a joint framework formally setting out the way in which English Heritage supports the environmental and social objectives of government as a whole. While rejecting the proposal that EH might in future be jointly sponsored by DCMS, DTLR and DEFRA, the quinquennial review is expected to recommend that EH's Funding Agreement should in future reflect the objectives of DTLR and DEFRA as well as those of DCMS.


Grant Giving

  3.1  EH and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) each provide grants for the repair of historic buildings and landscapes. More recently the New Opportunities Fund has also been given the authority to fund the enhancement of the environment through its "green spaces" programme. Lottery funding is now the largest single source of subsidy for the conservation of historic buildings and landscapes and is thus of crucial importance to EH as the Government's lead body for the sector.

  3.2  In addition to the HLF and NOF, the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) is sponsored by the DCMS and EH to distribute rolling-fund loans to local historic building preservation trusts. The overlap between all these funding roles requires careful management to avoid duplication and ensure effective strategic targeting of the available resources.

  3.3  Since the establishment of the HLF, EH has been its main source of expert advice on conservation grant applications. In addition the HLF and EH have each contributed around 10 million a year to a joint scheme focused on places of worship. The HLF has also invested 4 million in EH's Conservation Area Partnership scheme.

  3.4  While allowing resources from the two organisations to be channelled towards themes of shared interest, joint schemes of this need careful management to protect applicants from increased bureaucratic complexity. Over the last year EH has made a substantial contribution to the development of the HLF's new strategic plan and is currently working with it on the development of a shared approach to research priorities.

Statutory and voluntary advice and guidance

  3.5  The Commission on Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), as the successor to the Royal Fine Arts Commission, has advisory duties that naturally overlap with those of EH. While EH is concerned primarily with extant buildings and CABE with new architecture, they have a common responsibility to advise on the relationship of new development to the historic built environment in which it is set.

  3.6  Since 1999 CABE and EH have sought to define their areas of shared interest and those in which they may defend different positions in their roles as independent advisors to government. In recent months this has led on the one hand to the publication of joint guidance on the design of tall buildings, and on the other to their appearing on opposite sides in major planning inquiries in London and York.

  3.7  Beyond the DCMS circle, EH has important functional links with the Government's other key environmental protection and regeneration agencies, including most notably the Countryside Agency, English Nature and the Environment Agency. Close working relationships already exist with these DEFRA-funded bodies at both national and local levels, but in future will need to be further strengthened as EH develops its lead body role for the historic environment sector.

  3.8  Alongside its links to central government agencies, EH's policy and leadership functions require it to work with a wider range of other public and private sector organisations and associations involved in the management and development of the built environment. At a national level these range from the Joint National Council of Amenity Societies, the National Trust and the Local Government Association to the RIBA, RICS and the British Property Federation. At a regional level they include local planning authorities, Regional Development Agencies, Regional Cultural Consortiums and a host of local amenity societies and development partnerships.


Historic Properties

  4.1  Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) and the Royal Parks Agency (RPA) have curatorial and public access responsibilities analogous to those of EH. At the time of their establishment serious consideration was given to the amalgamation of their property portfolios with those of EH. Twenty years on, the arguments for potential synergies and savings in terms of shared marketing, professional curatorial and technical support services remain strong.

  4.2  EH would nevertheless strongly resist any solution that alienated its historic property function from its wider lead-role duties. This is because the quality of its advice to government and private owners stems directly from its practical expertise as a curator and presenter of historic attractions. It would similarly oppose the release of any smaller sub-set of its property portfolio on the grounds that this would undermine the critical mass of its historic properties business operation.

  4.3  The historic environment is one of the most important contributors to economic tourism. EH, as sectoral lead body and as the second largest operator of heritage attractions in the country, works in close partnership with the English Tourism Council (ETC) and British Tourism Authority (BTA). It does so both in terms of national marketing and promotion and through its shared membership with the ETC of groupings such as the Historic Towns Forum and Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.

  4.4  Beyond its public sector links in the historic attractions field, EH actively supports the work of the Historic Houses Association, the Churches Conservation Trust, the Civic Trust and other voluntary and private sector associations involved with the presentation of historic buildings to the public. EH also maintains close working relationships with the National Trust (NT), both in terms of the routine exchange of professional skills and as a source of grant-aid to a number of historic properties transferred to the NT by government without adequate endowment for their long-term repair and maintenance.

Collections, Archives and Information

  4.5  As a major museum operator and the holder of one of the country's largest public archives, EH used to work in close partnership with the Museums and Galleries Commission (MGC). Since the MGC's replacement by the more strategic Resource, that relationship has weakened. EH's closest links now tend to be with the national network of Area Museums Councils with which its regional teams work on a day-to-day basis and through their common membership of Regional Cultural Consortiums.

  4.6  Specific areas in which there is a need for closer cooperation between EH and Re:Source is the development of joint policies for the:

    —  storage of archaeological archives;

    —  management of collections associated with specific historic buildings;

    —  use of museums for interpreting the historic environment;

    —  networking of museum, archive and historic environment information resources.


Research and Survey

  5.1  EH's research and survey work involves a wide range of partnership and sponsorship relationships with academic and professional institutions, but fewer high-level strategic relationships of the kind that characterise its conservation and property-holding roles.

  5.2  Unlike the natural environment, the historic environment sector has no dedicated research council to coordinate research activity in its field. Instead, responsibility is divided between the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) (for science-based archaeology), the Arts and Humanities Research Board (for certain fields of historical research) and EH (as a major commissioner of archaeological and technical research from the university sector).

  5.3  EH's Power of Place and Force for Our Future commitment to ensure a robust framework of evidence about the character, condition and socio-economic contribution of the historic environment will require close working relationships with the statistical and data-holding divisions of the DTLR and DEFRA and their environmental NDPBs.


  5.4  EH's Education Department maintains working relations with the DCMS's Education Division and with appropriate specialist teams within the Department for Education and Skills. At a strategic and operational level it also works in close cooperation with the Curriculum Development Agency and other bodies responsible for the coordination and development of educational resources in and beyond the school classroom.

  5.5  Beyond central government, EH has in the past shared educational expertise with the National Trust and is currently providing lead-body professional support and guidance to the Historic Houses Association, the Churches Conservation Trust and similar organisations. In terms of technical education, it coordinates its own outreach activities with those of industry-led bodies such as the Construction Industries Training Board.

25 April 2002


previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 12 June 2002