Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex 2


  The historic environment is the physical record of how people have interacted with their environment in the past, and what that tells us of how they led their lives. Physically it is non-renewable. Yet it is also dynamic. It is the product of ongoing change, stretching from the distant past that will continue into the distant future: within the span of a single lifetime unimagined future developments can become a valued part of history. Our understanding of the past also changes through archaeological and historical investigation and interpretation.

  The historic environment and its study through archaeology and history contribute significantly to people's quality of life within the four key pillars of sustainable development, as defined in the current government strategy for sustainable development, A Better Quality of Life: A Strategy for Sustainable Development in the UK.

  For "social progress which recognizes the needs of everyone" the historic environment is:

    —  a source of enjoyment and interest through intellectual and physical activity and leisure-time pursuits, which contribute to general mental, spiritual and physical health;

    —  an important medium for general education, life-long learning and personal development;

    —  our only source for understanding the development of human society in prehistoric and much of historical times, and a key source of perspective on multi-cultural social change; and

    —  a vital basis for people's awareness of historical and cultural identity, and sense of community and place.

  For "effective protection of the environment" the historic environment is:

    —  a non-renewable record of people's long-term social, spiritual and economic relationships and their interaction with all parts of the environment;

    —  a fundamental determinant of environmental character, bio-diversity and cultural diversity;

    —  a catalyst for protecting and improving the distinctive qualities of the places where people live and work or which they visit; and

    —  a key to understanding long-term environmental change.

  For "prudent use of natural resources" the historic environment is:

    —  a reservoir of energy and natural resources already embodied in historic buildings and structures, which can be husbanded through careful maintenance and reuse;

    —  a non-renewable cultural resource, the conservation of which helps to promote prudent use of non-renewable natural resources such as soils and minerals;

    —  an important source of evidence about past use of renewable energy and recyclable natural resources such as wind and water, coppice, timber, thatch and organic waste.

  For "maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment" the historic environment is:

    —  a major source of revenue through tourism;

    —  a source of added value in economic and social regeneration;

    —  a significant source of employment, both directly and indirectly, through tourism, cultural activity, education and conservation.

  These benefits can be maximised by enhancing people's awareness and understanding of archaeology and the historic environment and by developing a culture, within government and industry and in their dealings with others, of promoting active involvement, care and appreciation of the historic environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

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Prepared 14 November 2002