Examination of Witnesses (Questions 49-59)
MR THOMAS CASSIDY AND MR GRAEME MUNRO
WEDNESDAY 1 MAY 2002
Chairman: Gentlemen, we would like to welcome you very much indeed here this morning. We have not had the pleasure of having either of your organisations before this Committee previously, and we are looking forward to hearing from you. Mr Bryant will open the questioning.
49. As a Welsh MP, I guess, partly; but I suppose we are slightly strained beyond our normal ken, in that you report to the Welsh Assembly, and you report to the Scottish Executive. How has that relationship been working for both of you since the new arrangements came into existence?
(Mr Cassidy) In Wales, actually Cadw reports to the Environmental Planning Committee, which I think relates perhaps to an earlier question that was put. But we do, of course, have relations with a number of other committees, with Culture, and recently with the Equal Opportunities Committee, because of the work we have been doing on disabled access. But among the things that we have noticed, there is certainly an increase in the degree of local interest, as you might well expect, having so many local Assembly Members, and that has been an impact on Cadw; and also there has been an impact in the fact that, as you know, the Welsh Assembly works through committee structures, not just subject committees but thematic committees, like Equal Opportunities, and regional committees. And so that has put an emphasis, a greater emphasis, on the partnership working that we are trying to do, and relates to the way in which aspects of the heritage, and heritage work in Wales, and other parts of the UK, are probably evolving, in slightly more proactive directions, because, for example, of the introduction of a greater number of grant-givers. That is the sort of impact that it has had.
(Mr Munro) In Scotland, we have moved from one department to another, since the Executive came into being, we have moved from the Development Department, which was concerned with planning, this bears partly on the question that Mr Wyatt asked earlier, where we were in the same department as the physical planners, land use planners, and are now in the Department of Education, which includes the national institutions, museums, art galleries, sport and culture, so that has been a change of brigading, if you like, within the Scottish Executive. And I report to the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, so it has put more emphasis on that aspect of our work. And, as in Wales, we have seen an increase in interest in our work from MPs and MSPs, particularly MSPs, the volume of correspondence we are dealing with is now running at roughly three times what it was previously, so there is quite a large increase in the interest in our work.
50. You heard the discussion earlier with English Heritage on the spectrum of liberalising and authoritarian views on what to do with your paint, and things like that; where would you place yourselves in relation, for instance, to English Heritage, about the same position, a bit more liberal, a bit more authoritarian?
(Mr Munro) I think our position is broadly similar. One important difference, of course, is that we are also the consent authority, whereas English Heritage make recommendations, as Dr Thurley said, we report directly to Ministers, as an Executive Agency. So perhaps that drives us to take a more pragmatic view internally than English Heritage, in the sense that they do have, if you like, the backstop of DCMS.
51. And in Wales?
(Mr Cassidy) I have not really taken a view on English Heritage's position, but I think it is worth remembering, that in Wales, local authorities, as in other parts of the United Kingdom, have front-line responsibility for dealing with listed building consents. If they are minded to grant consent, as you probably know, then they will refer it to Cadw, or, in the case of England and Scotland, certain classes of consent; but, in fact, the National Assembly, on Cadw's advice, will call in for determination only a handful of cases a year. So that the decisions that are actually taking place are already taking place at local level.
(Mr Munro) I would endorse that for Scotland. We deal with about 3,000 listed building consent applications a year, which are referred to us from local authorities, and we deal with 97 per cent of them within the statutory 28 days; only about 100 a year do we extend for further consideration, and we have called in fewer than ten cases a year in the last decade.
52. All about linseed oil paint?
(Mr Munro) Not all; not any.
53. Let me move on to the disabled access issue. I am aware, one of my favourite sites, that Cadw runs is Carreg Cennen, which, for those who do not know, is a stunning Welsh castle, on the top of a mountain, almost, overlooking a river that runs two-thirds of the way round it, very difficult to give it disabled access. What do you do about that? I could not download the PDF document, I am afraid, from your website.
(Mr Cassidy) When it comes to our sites, over the past many years, we have looked at each of them individually, in terms of what can be done to improve disabled access. As you say, in many of them, it would be impossible to make access complete, and what we want to do is try to optimise what opportunities they have. So we have published a guide, indicating to disabled people the level of access they are likely to get at the sites we have; but, additionally, because of the Disability Discrimination Act, and the emphasis generally on this area, we have had one of our own inspectors trained up as an access auditor, although will not be using him to pass judgement on our own sites in order to get a neutral feed on this. Later in the year, we will be commissioning a study from an independent consultancy, not yet identified, to look at this whole area again to see what we have missed, to see just what can be done at sites where there are opportunities to improve access. We have to do this, of course, in the context of trying to keep the fabric and the structure and the historicity of the sites as something integral. When it comes to the advice we give, we are preparing guidance at the moment, in consultation with the Disability Rights Commission, Disability Wales and the Equal Opportunities Committee of the Assembly, on ways we hope it will be possible to marry the DDA and the listed building consent legislation, the regulatory legislation, and doing this on the basis of case studies; at the moment, we are trying to collect what good case studies we can.
54. I was looking at the map of all the Cadw sites in Wales, and it seemed to manage beautifully to avoid the South Wales valleys; and I recognise that is partly because a lot of your sites are either castles or ecclesiastical, and then there is Roman and then there is prehistoric, I think it is called, and then you have another area which is called "other", which I guess would be Blaenavon, for instance. But I just wonder whether Cadw should be doing more in terms of some of the industrial heritage of the 19th century, in particular, in the mining communities; there is a whole range of miners' welfare halls, not all of which one would want to preserve, but maybe we ought to be deciding, there are two in the South Wales valleys, that we ought to be deciding, as a nation, in Wales, that we want to preserve and we want to hold?
(Mr Cassidy) I am sure that is right, and, indeed, Cadw came in for a bit of stick when we listed a number of coalmines and industrial buildings that were closing in the valleys. We are very conscious that we should try to preserve the best, but that, for the rest, adaptation is probably the way; so, not quite on your point but related, when it comes to chapels, for example, and we published advice on what to do with chapels, we published a book, called "Conservation and Conversion", because only through adaptation are you actually going to keep these things. And I agree with you that, when it comes to working-men's institutes, and examples of the social fabric around the industrialisation of South Wales, that really is very important. So far as our spread of sites is concerned, as you say, a lot of it comes from the 11th and 12th centuries, an engine-room of Welsh history, the castles; with later industrial sites, of course, which were not built to last, unlike the castles, and that has been one of the problems. At Blaenavon, Cadw has put a great deal of money into the ironworks, and there are things that we are contributing, and I know the HLF too is contributing, at industrial sites; but certainly one of the problems that has to be faced is the comparative expense of preserving industrial archaeology. Perhaps another reason why not too much has been done so far is that it is a comparative newcomer, and that the appreciation of industrial archaeology has not been here for very long, or certainly not as long as the rest, of the historic environment.
55. The WAG, the Welsh Assembly Government, has now done the same as in England, we have a free museum policy for national museums, and I wonder whether that has affected your income in Cadw because, presumably, that does not apply to Cadw sites, and I know, in my own constituency, the Rhondda Heritage Park is having a great deal of problems because all the schools now go to Big Pit, because it is free, whereas at the Rhondda you have to pay?
(Mr Cassidy) The free admission policy has almost exactly coincided with foot and mouth, so it is slightly difficult to tease out the causes and effect of some strange things that have been happening to numbers. But, if one can take two sites, since I cannot really comment on the generality, we found that, at Blaenavon, because access to Big Pit is free, we have done a roaring trade, while more people waiting to go down Big Pit. Caerleon near Newport, we have a site adjacent to the museum, which is the Roman baths, and we have found that people are very reluctant, having got in free to the museum, to pay to get into our property. So that is the response of the customer. Quite how this is going to affect our income I do not know; in fact, our income, over the whole of the year, has been fairly stable.
56. And how confident are you of the work of the Welsh Tourist Board in getting more people into Wales; some people seem to get to Tintern Abbey, which, even thanks to Wordsworth, is I suppose one of the most beautiful sites that we have, or you have, it is Cadw, is it not?
(Mr Cassidy) Yes, it is.
57. But how confident are you?
(Mr Cassidy) I am one of the people that quite likes the recent campaign that they have launched The Big Country, and we have good relations with Jo Jones, the Chief Executive, and, indeed, the chairman is a member of Cadw's advisory committee, so we have close relations with them and we share our ideas and they share theirs with us. So, in a way, we are part of the policy they are pushing, and for that reason I will be supportive of it. It is clear though, I think, that we are, in a way, in the hands of others when it comes to increasing visitor numbers, because we have seen that Cadw's market share in Wales of heritage sites has actually increased slightly; we are not that anxious to increase it further, because it is not our job to take the bread out of the mouths of other people who are trying to do the same thing, and we regard this target as a way of judging whether we are just about on track. But it has increased, which is good in one way, but in another it means that, I think, to get absolute numbers of visitors up again, because they have been falling, as have visitors to Wales generally, is going to require a lot of effort and support from other agencies, especially the Welsh Tourist Board.
58. I see, from your biographies, that you have both been in post for a number of years, so, unlike Simon Thurley, we can hold you responsible for all the sins of your organisation. Most of my questions will be directly to Mr Munro, because I am particularly interested in the situation in Scotland. You heard me mention one example from my own constituency, and you are probably familiar with Richards?
(Mr Munro) Yes, I am.
59. I did not flag that one up to the Clerk, because I do not want to concentrate on the detail of it, but I think there are some principles there which I would like to tease out with you. Richards, as you know, the Broadford Works, is a huge site, which the company has occupied for some, I think, 280-odd years, and, as I said earlier, a history of the British textile industry is there. As I understand the timetable, from the most recent Directors, the previous Directors saw listing of the buildings as a poison pill to prevent a takeover of the company, because nobody would be able to develop the business if it had to deal with Historic Scotland. So that is question number one, really; if you like, an underlining of the negative view that business has of your organisation?
(Mr Munro) The background to this case is a particularly complex one. Richards, as you say, have been on site for a long time; in the