The government has dropped a bill designed to streamline heritage protection in England and Wales
If approved the Heritage Protection Bill would introduce a new system for designating and managing historic environments.
However Kate Pugh of umbrella organisation Heritage Link now thinks the bill is unlikely to be on the legislative programme for several years to come.
‘The Heritage Protection Bill will improve efficiency and maximise opportunities for public involvement. Without it we lose an opportunity to bring together a coherent bill […] fit for the twenty-first century’, said Pugh.
It is the second time the bill has missed out. Despite cross-party support, the bill was overshadowed by economic matters at the opening of parliament in December last year and left out of the Queen’s Speech.
‘It is very disappointing that the Government does not recognise the need to protect our heritage’, said Richard Younger-Ross the Liberal Democrat Shadow Spokesperson for Heritage. ‘The Government needs to act now to protect the past’s future.’
Just two months ago the government set out a commitment to heritage in a cross-party paper called World Class Places which highlighted the importance of heritage and the role it can play in attracting creative industries - the fastest growing sector of the economy.
The move has been widely criticised. ‘It would be a quick win to bring [the Heritage Protection Bill] forward now’, said Sarah Buckingham of English Heritage.
Head of Public Affairs at RIBA Anna Scott-Marshall agreed: ‘It would be a huge disappointment to let this opportunity go.’
Meanwhile Robert Bargery of the Georgian Group remained optimistic that a future Conservative government might ‘rethink the whole thing, salvage some of the useful elements and begin again with fundamental fiscal changes.’
Moving the debate on, Alireza Sagharchi of the Traditional Architecture Group said secondary legislation should instead provide for some kind of educational process.
‘There is no specific targeted system of education for Conservation Area Officers or people who would be dealing with the legislation on a daily basis.’