Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Annex 1





  1.1  EH's first duty is to help protect important buildings, sites and landscapes for the benefit of future generations. It uses three main levers to protect and enhance the historic environment: statutory controls, technical advice, and financial assistance.

  1.2  In 2000-01 EH spent 34.2 million in grant-aid to third parties and a further 32 million on the provision of advice to Government and others.

Statutory Controls

  1.3  EH has two main advisory roles. The first is to advise the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport about historic sites meriting statutory protection. Although efforts have been made to minimise double handling, the separation of the advisory and executive components of listing and scheduling between EH and the DCMS still involves some bureaucratic overlap which is currently being addressed.

  1.4  EH has recently begun to make use of new non-statutory ways to secure the protection of historic sites and landscapes. The expert capacity that it presently devotes to listing and scheduling advice will, however, still be needed to underpin those alternative approaches.

  1.5  EH's second role is to advise Government and planning authorities about requests for permission to demolish or alter protected sites and buildings. Exceptionally, EH will itself contest unacceptable proposals at public inquiry, with the approval of its Commissioners and on the basis of advice from its own expert advisory committees.

  1.6  Permission to alter scheduled monuments remains a duty of EH and the Secretary of State, but could potentially be handled more efficiently by local authorities who already have delegated authority to grant Grade II listed building consent.

Voluntary advice and guidance

  1.7  Statutory protection is only one of the means of protecting the historic environment. Of equal (and in future of much greater) importance is the use of specialist advice and persuasion to secure voluntary support for the conservation of the historic environment. English Heritage carries these out in a number of different ways:

    —  national leadership on behalf of the historic environment through policy formulation, campaigning and strategic advice to Government;

    —  regional championing and capacity-building through Regional Development Agencies, Cultural Consortia, local development partnerships and other forums;

    —  promotion and monitoring of national standards for the conservation of the historic environment and its associated documentation;

    —  commissioning of technical conservation research and publication of specialist advice and guidance for the benefit of owners and developers;

    —  provision of specialist advice and guidance to individual owners and developers delivered through EH's network of regional offices.

  1.8  Following the publication of Power of Place, EH intends to strengthen its policy and leadership role, and build its capacity to support the sector locally and regionally.

Grant giving

  1.9  Alongside its advisory roles, EH provides grants to assist with the repair and enhancement of historic buildings and conservation areas.

  1.10  Grant aid is awarded through a number of parallel schemes, each strategically targeted towards a particular category of building or area recognised to be at risk (eg secular buildings, places of worship, conservation areas). Grants of lesser value are allocated through EH's regions, while larger awards, including those to cathedrals are allocated on the basis of national priority.

  1.11  EH's grant-giving functions sit alongside those of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF, administered on behalf of the DCMS through the National Heritage Memorial Fund) and the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF, sponsored by the DCMS).

  1.12  In 2000-01 the value of HLF conservation grants awarded in England was around 70 million. Since 1995 EH has served as a principal specialist adviser to the HLF and currently runs two grants schemes (for Places of Worship and for the economic regeneration of run-down Conservation Areas) in partnership with it.

  1.13  As a follow-up to Power of Place EH has been considering the effectiveness and value for money of its grant schemes compared with other methods of securing the future of the historic environment. In the light of this review EH is planning to shift a proportion of its current grant budget from direct repairs to projects that will encourage the better ongoing maintenance of historic properties.

  1.14  In view of the backlog of repairs that already exist (400 million alone is needed for the 1,600 Grade I and II* on EH's national Buildings at Risk register), the provision of a substantial fund for emergency repair will remain an inescapable priority for EH, the DCMS and the HLF for at least the next decade.


  2.1  EH's second core function is to curate and provide access to historic properties and associated museum collections in its ownership or care.

  2.2  In 2001-02 EH spent some 17 million on maintaining its properties and collections. The operation and capital development of its interpretation and visitor facilities costs around 29 million against an estimated income of 25 million.

  2.3  EH is responsible for 409 historic properties in the ownership or guardianship of the state. These range from iconic national monuments like Stonehenge, Osborne House, Kenwood and Wellington Arch to a host of more modest medieval ruins and prehistoric burial mounds.

  2.4  In the context of the public sector EH's property-management functions are most closely matched by those of Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) and The Royal Parks Agency. In the context of the voluntary sector its closest opposite number is the National Trust with whom it regularly shares expertise, as it does with the HRP.

  2.5  Over the last decade the operational management of 149 of these properties has been successfully delegated to a variety of partners through Management Agreements. The remainder because of their size, complexity, conservational sensitivity, or lack of willing partners remain under EH's direct care.

  2.6  Alongside its core portfolio, EH will on occasions take on temporary ownership of exceptionally important but terminally neglected buildings in order to bring them into good repair and then sell them back into beneficial use.

  2.7  EH's role as a custodian, operator of historic properties and owner of last resort has allowed it to build up a core of practical expertise in conservation and presentation that contributes directly to its parallel role as an advisory and standard-setting body for sector.

  2.8  Almost all EH properties are open to the public, making it the country's second largest operator of heritage attractions. In 2001-02 some 11.5 million people visited its staffed and open-access sites. As well as providing a wide range of catering and retail facilities, EH mounts an extensive programme of exhibitions, concerts and special events to encourage new and broader audiences to its properties.

  2.9  EH is aware that it needs to encourage new audiences to its properties through better interpretation, marketing and access facilities. At the same time it knows that to maintain its market share it will need to continue to invest in better catering, retail and toilet facilities at its most popular properties.

  2.10  EH is currently reviewing the way in which it manages the conservation, public presentation and commercial exploitation of historic properties, with a view to introducing by the end of the calendar year a streamlined structure that allows more focused and transparently accountable operation.


  3.1  EH's third core function is to support research into the origins and significance of the historic environment, maintenance of a national information base for the heritage, and dissemination of that knowledge through education.

  3.2  In 2000-01 EH spent some 19 million on its research and survey work (including 4.6 million awarded in grants and contracts to third parties), 4 million on maintaining and providing access to the National Monuments Record archive functions transferred to it from the RCHME in 1999, and circa 2.5 million on school education and skills training for the sector.

Research and Survey

  3.3  EH sponsors scientific, technical and academic research because conservation of the historic environment and its enjoyment by the public depend on a constant supply of authoritative and up-to-date information and knowledge about the origins, significance and condition of the historic environment. Prior to their merger in 1999 EH and the RCHME each maintained their own specialist teams of surveyors, archaeological scientists and architectural historians.

  3.4  One of the key purposes of merger was to allow the integration of those teams and the development of a national centre of scientific and technical excellence for the sector. This has now happened and EH is currently in the process of reviewing the entire range of its research activities to ensure that they are focused on the key priorities identified through Power of Place and A Force for Our Future.

  3.5  One key strand is the development of a more robust framework of national and regional evidence about the character and changing condition of the historic environment. Another is the assembly of more reliable statistical information about the social and economic contribution of historic buildings and landscapes.

  3.6  Data of both kinds are crucial to the development of strategies for the sustainable conservation and economic exploitation of the historic environment and EH intends to give them heightened priority in the wake of PoP and AfoF.

  3.7  In addition to its in-house research EH sponsors archaeological and technical research carried out by others. Unlike its natural environment counterpart, the historic environment sector has no dedicated research council of its own. In future EH will thus need to play a key role developing and co-ordinating an integrated research strategy for the sector.

Archives and Information

  3.8  The National Monuments Record (NMR) is the central archive and database for the historic environment of England. Previously curated by the RCHME, it comprises 12 million photographs, drawings and written reports and a computerised record of more than a million historic buildings and archaeological sites.

  3.9  As well as serving as a primary source of information for official and professional conservation purposes, the NMR is a major but under-exploited educational resource that can open the door to the history of every street, village and neighbourhood in the country. Its contents are freely available through its London and Swindon search rooms and in future the NMR will be concentrating on the development remote-access electronic services to increase its public accessibility.

  3.10  Since merger, significant progress has been made with integration of the separate sets of heritage records previously maintained by EH and RCHME. Substantial investment in Geographical Information System (GIS) software has also begun to allow much more powerful spatially-based retrieval of information about the location and significance of the sites and buildings that make up the historic environment.

  3.11  As well as curating its own collections and databases, EH has led the development of data standards for the wider heritage sector. It has also played a crucial role in the development of the network of local Sites and Monuments Records (SMRs) that provide historic environment information to the local authority planning system.

  3.12  In the context of Power of Place, the NMR will remain central to EH's advisory, information and educational role. Over the next five years its priorities will be:

    —  networked on-line access to all sources of historic environment information;

    —  public access to the contents of the NMR through Culture Online;

    —  additional secure storage for nationally-important archive collections at risk.


  3.13  EH is statutorily obliged to provide educational services and to promote public understanding and enjoyment of the built heritage. It does this by providing free access to more than 400,000 school children each year, by publishing resource material for schools, and by promoting the curriculum-related teaching of heritage-related subjects in schools and to the life-long learning community. Over the past 10 years EH's Education Department has earned an international reputation for the quality of its publications and support for schools.

  3.14  EH has recently begun to provide its educational services to the heritage sector as a whole, and in line with government policy and in the spirit of Power of Place proposes to extend its general educational activity beyond the classroom and into the heart of the community.

  3.15  In parallel with its work with children, EH sponsors professional training for the historic environment sector. Drawing upon its own expertise and that of its partners, its outreach activities range from the promotion of traditional craft skills to the continuing development of architects, archaeologists, planners and other conservation professionals.

  3.16  In terms of technical education, EH recognises that as lead body for the sector it will need to make a greater investment in the coordination and development of craft skill and continuing professional development programmes for the sector.


  4.1  EH is empowered by the 1983 Act to generate revenue in support of its core purposes. In 2000 it appointed a Business Director to significantly increase the profitable return from its trading and fundraising operations. Currently revenue is generated in the following ways (2000-01 gross receipts in brackets):

    —  charges for entry to its historic properties (8.2 million);

    —  in-house and franchised retailing and catering operations (6.9 million);

    —  English Heritage membership scheme (7.5 million; 459,000 members);

    —  concerts, events, corporate hospitality, royalty charges, etc (3.7 million);

    —  fundraising and donations (0.4 million);

      —grants from non-DCMS sources (3 million).

  4.2  EH currently maintains in-house operation all of its visitor, marketing, membership, retail, corporate hospitality and fundraising functions, but contracts out its catering operations and the management of its commercial concerts programme.

  4.3  EH considers that charging for access to its properties and to certain of its services is consonant with its statutory duties and public service obligations. It also believes that offering free admission to its own properties, or sponsoring free admission to those of third parties, will have a distorting affect on the historic attractions market and may be contrary to the long term interests of the sector.


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