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
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.