Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1
TUESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2006
VENNING, OBE, MR
MBE, DR IAN
Chairman: Good morning everybody. Welcome
to this the first session of our inquiry into protecting and preserving
our heritage. Before I introduce the witnesses I think Helen Southworth
would just like to make a short declaration.
Helen Southworth: Thank you, Chairman.
I have a relevant declarable interest for this inquiry, in that
my husband will become a member of the Heritage Lottery Board
North-West from April this year.
Chairman: Can I therefore welcome you
all. We have representatives of a number of voluntary organisations,
I think four of which are part of the Joint Committee of the National
Amenity Societies, but you will all have specific interests in
the preservation of ancient buildings. In particular, can I welcome:
Philip Venning, the Secretary of the Society for the Protection
of Ancient Buildings; Matthew Saunders, the Secretary of the Ancient
Monuments Society; Dr Ian Dungavell, the Director of The Victorian
Society; Adam Wilkinson of SAVE Britain's Heritage; and Bridget
Cherry of the Twentieth Century Society. May I invite Adrian Sanders
Q1 Mr Sanders: What really, really
needs to be in the White Paper, and what can wait?
Dr Dungavell: I can start while
the rest of them are gathering their thoughts on that, but that
is a very good question. One of the things that most worries us,
I guess, is listing. There is something that needs to be done
before the White Paper and that is an interim protection for buildings
which are being considered for listing, which is that DCMS tell
English Heritage to tell the owner of the building that it is
under consideration for listing. Already I know of two buildings
which have either been demolished or have been substantially altered
as a result of their owners being notified. Quite rightly, the
owner makes their own decision what to do, but I think that is
a terrible way to prejudge whether the building is listable or
not. I think that needs to be changed right away. In the White
Paper there also needs to be a consideration that owners will
not like having consideration for listing hanging over their heads
for a long period of time. I do not think that is fair. There
needs to be a defined period in which a decision about listing
has to be made, and I have not seen that mentioned so far. It
would be quite wrong for listing decisions to take as long as
they do now while there is that protection. In the evidence of
The Victorian Society you will see that we are aware of some outstanding
listing decisions going back to 2002; and we have also got some
very important listing decisions which are still unresolved while
major development is planned in the area. I would like to give
you two examples of that because I think they are quite important.
One is the Walter Bodmer Library at Oxford University which is
an unlisted building and a member of the public submitted it for
listing in April 2005. The Council apparently are beginning their
consideration of this planning application today not knowing the
result of that listing application, and that seems to me the sort
of thing which will bring the whole system into disrepute. We
were told by DCMS that English Heritage had recommended it for
listing, but DCMS had turned it down. I wonder why it is disregarding
the advice of its advisors on the historic environment. The person
who submitted it for listing has asked for a review, and we were
told when we phoned last week the decision would be made yesterday;
but when we phoned yesterday DCMS told us it would be made "in
due course". Another university, the Arkwright Building at
Nottingham Trent University, we have asked to be upgraded; and
we submitted that request on 20 July 2005. It is still undecided
even though the local planning authority is trying to decide on
a listed building consent application now and it is up for consultation.
Those sorts of things I think need really to be sorted out.
Mr Wilkinson: Just to raise a
flag at this point if I may to do with conservation areas and
the need for serious action. At present buildings in conservation
areas are woefully inadequately protected. This is largely to
do with the Shimizu decision, which has not been corrected
even though many years ago this removed much control over demolition
in conservation areas. There is a real opportunity here to sort
this out and make sure that buildings in a conservation area that
are of historic and architectural interest or generally adding
to the ambiance of a conservation area can be properly protected,
which at present they are not.
Mr Venning: Could I add something
to that. I think the Government has made it clear, particularly
in the recent Public Value Conference that was held a couple of
weeks ago, that what the Government would like to see is greater
involvement with ordinary members of the public in decisions about
what buildings should or should not be protected and, in a sense,
given some degree of public funding in the process. In a way,
it is actually these very buildings, the ones in conservation
areas, which are the ones that people are most likely to fight
over. If it is local building that they lovehas family
associations, maybe it is a school which they went to, perhaps
not architecturally terribly important but one that adds to that
village or town something that they feel strongly aboutcertainly
at the moment the fact that it is in a conservation area means
precious little; it is surprising really what you can get away
with in a conservation area. I am desperately sad because in a
village in Norfolk there was a very nice village hall converted
from an early 19th Century foundry and the windows were windows
which had been made in that foundry, very nice early ironwork
in good condition and when I went back yesterday there were all
horrible plastic ones, all done absolutely with permission and
so on, perfectly acceptable, but had utterly transformed that
building. That same story can be told absolutely anywhere you
Q2 Mr Evans: What do you want to
see in conservation areas with buildings then?
Mr Venning: I think certainly
a good bit more control than there is at the moment and clarity
of control. I think that is the other problem. People are not
clear precisely what you can or cannot do. What we are not saying
is the controls should be as onerous as they are with listing.
At the moment there are categories of control in conservation
areas, but I think the situation desperately needs clarifying.
For those of you who are not familiar with this Shimizu
judgment that we referred to, this was a House of Lords' decision
on an entirely different matter, nothing to do with conservation
areas but it produced a definition of the word "demolition",
which previously had not been terribly clear. The problem with
that is the idea of part demolition is one of the items that appears
in the conservation area legislation. By making this decision
on a totally different matter it suddenly changed the legal framework
for conservation areas. The Government when it first came into
power in 1997 had said this was one of the things they were going
to try to do early on, but there is still no sign of action on
that front at all. Conservation areas are definitely something
which ought to be dealt with.
Q3 Chairman: When you said the windows
were changed "with permission"?
Mr Venning: I should correct myselfthere
was no need for permission. I beg your pardon.
Q4 Chairman: The local authority
could not have prevented it?
Mr Venning: No.
Mr Saunders: If it was listed
they could have done.
Q5 Chairman: The Shimizu decision,
is that something which you detect that DCMS accepts needs to
Mr Saunders: Yes.
Q6 Chairman: It is just a question
of legislative time?
Mr Saunders: Yes. Several ministers
have said, "We want to change it", but the time to actually
do that is not found. The White Paper is going to include a radical
reform, and we know that the substance of it is going to be the
listing processthe process of protecting buildings. There
is a feeling that, rather than rearranging the chess pieces there
ought to be an addition to the chess pieces on the playing boardbecause
some of the redirection of effort towards reform has been away
from the resurvey itselfaway from making sure that the
lists are as up-to-date as possible both in the description of
the building and also in the number of buildings included. For
instance, Colchester 1971; Oxford 1972; Exeter 1974; Winchester
1974; these are really old lists. There have been additions over
the yearsExeter has 65 additions clipped into it and it
is a very, very cumbersome bible to useand because there
has not been a systematic street-by-street, building-by-building
reassessment (the last one to be done was in Bath) the other towns
are now to be put onto the backburner. The effort will now be
towards re-doing the whole system, rather than expanding the degree
of controls. I think that is the concernthat the effort
will be on rearranging the pieces rather than adding to the number
Ms Cherry: Could I pick up on
that as well from the point of view of the more recent past. The
listing, as Matthew has said, in the past was dealt with by area,
or for the 20th Century it was dealt with by thematic study, which
means when buildings were put forward they were seen within the
context of comparable buildings, so one could then assess which
were the better ones. That process was adopted for the post-war
buildings of the Second World War with research being carried
out by English Heritage; and that went on in a very satisfactory
way until two or three years ago now when that element of the
research was abandoned. As a result we have had a spate of spot-listing
requests, which is fine from the point of view of the public being
able to put in their inquiries and suggestions, but it does mean
that such requests have to be assessed on their own without the
relevant context. I think it would be very desirable if more attention
could be given, as it used to be, to the kind of either thematic
research or area research so that buildings could be understood
within their context, within either their local topographical
context or their historical context; so when one is assessing,
say, a library or a town hall of a particular date you would know
whether it was outstanding among other examples of that period.
This is particularly important for the recent past because it
is so much an unknown subject. It is not an area where people
have done a lot of research, and one really needs to investigate
the background before one makes snap judgments. I would hope that
any future approach to listing would involve adequate resources
for the background assessments to be done properly.
Mr Wilkinson: This question of
resources is one which arises out of the White Paper in a very
large way. The demands to be placed upon English Heritage as a
result of the changes to the listing system will be enormous,
and yet there is no guarantee that its funding will be increased,
whereas at current rates it will probably carry on decreasing,
which is absolutely wrong. Any changes that happen to the listing
system must be accompanied by proper funding for the heritage
organisations that deal with it, particularly English Heritage.
Q7 Mr Sanders: I think you have just
answered my second question about the effects of the proposals
on heritage protection reform on resourcing. Could I go back to
Mr Wilkinson's answer to the first question: you referred to "buildings",
as did Philip Venningwhen you talk about buildings, do
you actually mean the site as a whole within a conservation area?
Because "conservation area" does not just apply to buildings,
it is also to the land, fencing, boundaries and even the landscaping.
Could you clarify that when you are talking about that you are
talking about the whole area?
Mr Wilkinson: We are talking about
the wider area. The effects of destroying one building are not
just on that immediate site but on the setting of surrounding
buildings, on the way that the street moves and works, and also
how you perceive the street. Yes, it is much wider than just a
buildingit can mean the land. You get many lovely, beautiful
Victorian conservation areas with fine detached and semi-detached
villas within them which have gardens around them which are in
proportion to the house. The current theme there is to go in,
plough down the house and bung up blocks of flats which alters
the rhythm and scale of those areas and makes them less pleasant
places in which to live.
Mr Saunders: Through conservation
areas you actually can protect trees; whereas you cannot with
listing. A tree in the grounds of a listed building can be felled,
whereas one in the grounds of an unlisted building or one which
has a tree preservation order or is within the conservation area
and is more than three inches in girth, you need permission to
fell. It is one of the curiosities.
Ms Cherry: One of the important
aspects of studying the 20th Century is large sitesfor
example, university campuseswhere the landscaping and the
buildings are really integrated in such a way if you destroy one
you destroy the quality of the other. Take for example the University
of East Anglia at Norwich which has very striking buildings and
a very striking landscape. I think it is not just what one thinks
of as conventional conservation areas of historic towns, but it
is the way buildings and landscapes integrate on larger sites
which need to be looked at very carefully.
Dr Dungavell: I was going to say
the local planning authorities find conservation area work very
resource-intensive, and so when they are trying to cope with the
pressure of deciding planning applications within the shorter
deadlines conservation areas are going to get sidelined. One thing
I would like to point is 75% of councils do not have a conservation
area advisory committee where local people and experts can feed
in their ideas about the conservation area. The ones that do have
conservation area advisory committees are cutting back on the
number of cases which are referred to them and the amount of time
that they take to discuss. I think something needs to be done
Mr Saunders: Only one-third of
local authorities actually have a conservation officer, as it
were an expert, helping the public to say "We feel strongly
about this particular building". The expert can articulate
why it is important in the context of the architecture of the
area, as well as the work of a particular architect where it may
be a good example of his or her work.
Q8 Chairman: Your concern about resource
implications for English Heritage would presumably apply equally
to local authorities who also are going to have additional responsibilities?
Mr Venning: Even more so probably,
because they are actually at the cutting edge, and that is very
often where you get local conflicts appearing, precisely because
the local authority do not have the specialised staff; the ordinary
members of the public are mystified by these strange decisions
which seem to be coming out of the local authority. Whereas if
you have a knowledgeable and experienced conservation officer
they are able, we hope, to talk to the owner, the developer or
whoever, explain the situation, negotiate and take sensible decisions.
So often things go wrong not because of ill-will on anyone's side
but because of a breakdown in communications. That is why really
properly trained and experienced staff are critical to making
the whole process work.
Mr Wilkinson: As we have said,
very often conservation officers within local authorities are
not held in particularly high regard by their colleagues in the
planning department and other areas, which is a serious cause
for concern. Very often there is preference for economic development
over conservation, rather than looking at how the two can work
hand-in-hand and they do work hand-in-hand. There is a huge body
of evidence to show how, if you keep your historic buildings,
you can actually help regenerate the town through them, rather
than knocking down and starting again.
Q9 Alan Keen: I represent the western
half of the borough of Hounslowthe eastern half, unfortunately,
is not in my halfSyon House and Osterley House, there is
a whole list of them. I am very concerned that the local authority
resources have been squeezed very, very seriously and this is
another implication where the local authority is going to be loaded
with more responsibility without the resources to carry it out.
Although there a lot of support locally for looking after conservation
areas and, in particular, Osterley House and Gunnersbury; although
there is a lot of local support for that it will be very difficult
for Hounslow borough to look after its responsibilities without
something being done about the funding, perhaps ring-fencing it.
What do you feel about that?
Ms Cherry: One of the ways in
which the local authorities have been helped in the past is through
English Heritage supporting conservation officers and particularly
now offering training schemes which can meet this problem which
was mentioned, of local officers who really have not got the right
skills. The resource funding comes back to English Heritage funding
as well. The third element in the funding resources is of course
the Heritage Lottery Fund which has done the most tremendous things
to take up really complicated sites which were quite beyond the
scope of local authority action or individual owners. We do have
some serious concerns that future money in the Heritage Lottery
Fund may not be directed towards conservation as much as it has
been in the past, because that would be a great disaster.
Mr Saunders: I am a trustee of
the Heritage Lottery Fund and I have to be very careful. Wearing
my Amenity Society hat, one of the great charms of working for
HLF now is how HLF is able to solve problems that have been on
our collective desks for years. If you think of Chiswick House
which has just got £8 million no other body could possibly
have given that degree of support to a problem which has been
around for years and which only HLF could actually solve because
it has collective disciplines within it and a considerable tranche
of money. Although I am a trustee and therefore have no personal
interest, taking my HLF hat off, I do feel absolutely passionately
that HLF should carry on because of the good that it has done
in its first 10 years.
Dr Dungavell: I think that is
universally shared by all of us. The transformation the HLF has
effected on parts of the historic environment is really astonishing.
It is tremendously popular with the public and it also has an
emphasis on access and participation. It is not jewels just being
saved for the precious few. It is things like the arboretum in
Derby, which was probably the first public park in the country,
which has been restored amazingly; it is things like the Pavilion
Gardens in Buxton, and you pinch yourself walking around there
thinking that this is the most amazing public space full of people
enjoying it. The transformative power of HLF grants is really
Mr Venning: Could I also declare
an interest because I serve on the HLF Expert Panel. However,
taking that hat off, what I would say is (endorsing entirely what
Matthew said) it is extraordinary how many old cases have been
resolved which would not have been otherwise. There is a danger
of thinking, "Oh well, we tick those boxes: those problems
have been solved and there isn't the need for HLF in future";
that is simply not the case. There is a huge number of issues,
not merely in the built heritageremember HLF covers the
natural heritage and covers a very wide range of subjects. There
are still major problems out there and we would be very worried
indeed if those ones missed out because HLF suddenly found its
money was being cut back.
Q10 Alan Keen: I am obviously extremely
happy that the Heritage Lottery Fund can look after the real jewels
in the crown, of which we have got quite a few in Hounslow. I
am really asking the question about the local authority's part
in the linking together of other stuff. Brentford is being developed;
the riverfront is being developed; we have got The Butts just
behind there and if we are not careful that is going to be surrounded
by not very attractive buildings but those which are in tremendous
demand along the River Thames. How do we fund the local authority
to make sure the conservation areas in between the real jewels
can be looked after and linked together?
Mr Saunders: It has to be a truism
that if you give any authority extra powers, whether it is EH
for listing and local authorities to be the first port of call
for applications for protecting historic buildings (which is what
is being proposed under the White Paper), you have to pay for
it. I cannot see how it is anything other than blindingly obvious
and, therefore, Government has to resource the decision-maker
appropriately so the decisions are good quality decisions.
Q11 Alan Keen: And ring-fence it?
Mr Saunders: Or however it is
done, there has to be an identifiable audit trail which says,
"These are your responsibilities and this is the money to
make sure you do it properly and well", either from the local
ratepayer or from central government; but probably from central
government because it is a central government direction to do
this. The White Paper will bring to local authorities considerable
extra powers, one of which is scheduled monument consent, which
is done entirely now by central government. The idea is that you
have a single port of entry; every local authority will be the
receiver of the applications to alter whatever it is, a barrow
through to a 20th Century swimming pool that is very important
by Basil Spence for instance; and the scheduled monument aspect
is entirely new. Hounslow does not have many scheduled sites although
it does have some; but parts of Devon would have hundreds of them
in the rural parts in particular, so the extra tasks on local
authorities' shoulders will be considerable. After the resurvey
of the scheduled monument lists they were talking about 60,000
entries; I think the total has now gone down a bit, but it is
quite a sizeable addition. I do not see, on grounds of fairness,
how you can give extra tasks without resources.
Q12 Mr Evans: If we were talking
about rainforests now we would know roughly how much is being
lost each year as it currently stands. How worried should we be,
as the law currently stands, about how much is being lost of our
heritage each year? You have given one sort of example, but is
there a huge amount of buildings and landscape being lost each
year because there just simply is not the protection? Can you
give us some sort of ideas as to what we are losing each year?
Mr Wilkinson: I think you can
get a clear idea of what is being lost in terms of listed buildings,
but it is harder to quantify the loss of unlisted buildings; likewise
incremental change. It is the alterations to buildings, such as
ripping out the windows, changing the doors, putting different
roofs on, and so on, that alter the character and take away the
interest of the buildings that are very hard to map. SAVE was
considering doing a report looking at legal alterations to listed
buildings and buildings in conservation areas; but we decided
that it was too hard to try and trace these changes over the years
and see what had been legally done and illegally done, even within
one small local authority's area; the challenge would be enormous.
From SAVE's own point of view, we can see a very clear threat
ahead in the form of the Housing Market Renewal Initiative which
at current rates would see 168,000 nearly all unlisted, nearly
all not in conservation areas (but pre-1919) terraced houses destroyed
over the next 10 or 15 years. I know one or two members of the
Committee have constituencies in Pathfinder areas. This is perhaps
one tangible area where we will and can see what is being lost;
but otherwise the loss is ongoing and incremental problem. This
again returns us to the question of conservation officers having
proper control over their areas.
Dr Dungavell: There is also a
great repairs backlog as well. The Council for the Care of Churches
I think estimates that £1.2 billion is needed to repair Anglican
places of worship. HLF has a figure of £5.6 billion on repairs
needed to historic buildings. While they are not being done there
is a slow decline of the heritage value of those assets.
Mr Saunders: The actual applications
to demolish listed buildings are running at about two a week.
The total of listed buildings which people want to destroy was
127 last year in England and Wales. There is a vastly increased
number, and EH estimates about 20,000, which are in varying degrees
of risk, either because the owner hates it or because the owner
does not live in it, or multiple reasons for planning blight,
and that is the great threat; because an empty building sadly
very often becomes an ex-building because children get into them
with a box of matches and it is no more. There are examples of
really outstanding buildings, Grade I's as well as the ordinary
Grade II's, which are empty and under threat and a total waste
in that position as well. That is, I think, the insidious threat
and one which is much more difficult to arrest. It is much easier
to say to someone who owns a building, "No, you can't demolish".
It is much more cumbersome to go beyond that and use repair powers
if necessary; but local authorities do not like using thosethey
have served 300 or whatever but do not like serving a large number
of them because of the ramifications. That is a much more intractable
problem to solve and it is a huge problem.
Mr Venning: Matthew talks about
the problems of buildings which are emptyone of the keys
to it, we feel, is to try to encourage better maintenance of buildings,
because it is because a lot of the gutters get blocked that water
falls in and the roof rots and very quickly starts falling in
and so on. How one actually encourages maintenance is very difficult.
My own organisation has run something called "National Maintenance
Week" since 2002, which is simply designed to encourage owners
of any kind of building, new, old, factories, houses or whatever,
once a year to do those simple tasks, like cleaning out the gutters
and so on. It is difficult and I know HLF has been struggling
with trying to think of ways to encourage maintenance, and a number
of others have. There is scope here for DCMS to take a lead, because
it relates to many other government departments which have an
interest in the care of buildings and so on. I would hope DCMS
might take a lead perhaps convening some kind of interdepartmental
working partyin fact I have written to the Minister suggesting
thisto see if we can do more to encourage maintenance because
it meets sustainability and all these other arguments and, at
the same time, is a very practical way of ensuring that buildings
do not get lost needlessly.
Mr Wilkinson: The important point
is that it saves money in the future. If you clean your gutters
out right now to prevent water getting in you are saving grant
aid in the future. There is a need for a paradigm shift in the
whole system, to be looking at maintenance first and grant aid
only where absolutely necessary. Perhaps there should be some
form of funding for maintenance schemes. The main obstacle at
the moment obviously is VAT, that perennial question that comes
back and haunts us the entire time, and I am sure you are all
with us on this one as wellthere is a need to sort that
out very urgently.
Chairman: It has featured in quite a
lot of the evidence!
Q13 Janet Anderson: Could I ask Adam
Wilkinsonyou referred to the Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder
Project, and there is one in my constituency. Do you not accept
that in fact some of these houses had reached the end of their
natural lifespan and there was no alternative but for them to
come down? If I could just add to thatif you take the three
areas of Darwen in my constituency, one is in a conservation area
and there is no question of the houses there being demolished
but they are going to be refurbished. I can say that the vast
majority of the people who lived in the houses that are going
to be demolished are now very happy. I was talking to someone
the other day who had been able, through the compensation he had
received and the shared equity he had received, to buy a much
better house and he said to me, "When I finish work today,
Janet, I'm going to go and sit in my garden. That's the first
time I've ever been able to do that". Could I just briefly
say to you, do you accept that some of this was essential? For
example, in Burnley next door terraced houses were changing hands
for £25 in local pubs.
Mr Wilkinson: I am aware that
Burnley Wood must be the worst area and the worst case we have
come across; but even there house prices have changed enormously.
Of course you could look at some buildings and say there is no
hope but other cases, when looking at the whole street, it only
takes the repair of one or two to pick up the rest. The Housing
Market Renewal Initiative is a sweeping initiative. What seems
to be going wrong is failing to look at the small scale and how
you can knit areas back together with perhaps some select demolition
rather than taking out 200 or 300 houses, or in east Manchester
700 houses, in one go. There is a need to look at how you can
carefully knit areas back together, how you can regenerate them
through perhaps taking out one or two houses and creating some
green space and getting alternative uses into the areas as well
and creating employment, rather than just looking at demolition
as the cure-all. If you demolish you move the problems onto somewhere
else. A lot of problems in these housing areas are social problems
and not housing problems, as you well know and are aware of. You
do not cure a social problem with a bulldozer; you cure it by
other means. There will be times, yes, when perhaps a handful
of houses might possibly be taken out but I do not see that mass
demolition is the cure. They can be refurbished to modern standards.
We have seen that this can be done economically as well. There
is this key question of doing it economically. If you can do it
economically, individuals and small businesses will do it rather
than the Government having to spend the taxpayers' billions on
demolishing and rebuilding.
Q14 Mr Hall: Would you have said
the same thing in the 19th Century?
Mr Wilkinson: Then we would be
dealing with buildings in Philip's era. The housing conditions
are entirely different nowadays.
Q15 Mr Hall: Would you want to live
in an end of terrace two-up and two-down with no back garden and
your front door straight onto the street?
Mr Wilkinson: I pretty well do
Q16 Mr Hall: You are very much on
your own there!
Mr Wilkinson: In central London
possibly not. That is not the reality though. The houses being
demolished now are not proper back-to-backs; most of those were
taken out in the 1960s and 1970s and earlier in the 1930s. It
is not a case of four families living in a two bed-roomed house.
It is usually one family in a one or two bed-roomed house. You
can do other things: you can knock two together to create alternatives.
Look at what Urban Splash are doing at Chimney Pot Park in Manchester
where they are completely adapting the houses.
Q17 Helen Southworth: We are getting
into a discussion about demolition or non-demolition rather than
heritage or non-heritage. Is there an issue here about wanting
to maintain things because of the contribution to the local community
and their viability and the length of life they have got in usable
terms, or are you saying that nothing should ever be knocked down?
Mr Wilkinson: No, I am not saying
that. This is where communities are fighting for their buildings.
The communities are very strongly linked to their buildings; they
love their areas; and they are historic areas as well.
Q18 Helen Southworth: There is a
judgment to be made; it is not an automatic thing?
Mr Wilkinson: There can be, yes.
There is a judgment to be made for us as a small organisation
as to where we fight. There is the link between people and buildings.
We are often told by Government (all of us in the heritage sector)
that we should be more socially inclusive, and yet when we are
fighting for buildings alongside communities we are as socially
inclusive as you could possibly be.
Q19 Chairman: May I come back to
a theme which you referred to earlier which I think has some resonance
in the discussion we have been having, and that is how effective
DCMS is in arguing the case for heritage against particularly
other government departments? Here we have the case of the ODPM
pursuing a policy which you clearly have considerable objection
to; and there have been other examples which have come in, in
the evidence, where it has been put that DCMS simply does not
have the clout needed in Whitehall. Is that something you believe
is true, and what can be done about it?
Mr Saunders: I think there is
certainly a feeling that DCMS should be taking more of a high
profile lead on heritage matters, particularly as heritage (that
dreadful word) actually embraces so much of our lives in all sorts
of ways. Just walking down the streets to shops very often you
pass areas which have been there for years. I think it is very
depressing to look at the mission statement of DCMS to find heritage
not mentioned at all. It is almost as if it is an embarrassment:
it may be Salisbury Cathedral but it is an embarrassment and,
therefore, we do not mention it. I think there is a culture within
DCMS which does not seem to be proud of the greatness that this
country has produced in terms of architecture as well as art and
countryside, everything that heritage is about; instead the emphasis
is what goes on today, whatever it is, it's other responsibilitiesmedia,
sport whatever. There is a feeling which we seem to get that heritage
is not praised and championed as much as it ought to be, particularly
as parts of it are under threat; which is not to say that the
other causes of the Ministry are not just as important; but not
to mention heritageif you go onto the website it is hardly
visible, and yet this country has more listed buildings than any
other country in the world except Italy. We have a heritage which
is absolutely mesmerising. We have 57 cathedrals and towns like
Bath and Chichester. It is just extraordinary. Why is the Government
not celebrating that, other than its effect on tourism (which
is easily done) but saying, "This matters to the identity
and sense of pride and pleasure of this country"? We do not
get the sense that that clarion call is coming from the DCMS.