Shadow culture minister Helen Goodman has slammed government plans to split English Heritage (EH), saying the plans represented a ‘war of attrition over our heritage’
Goodman’s attack follows the release by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport of a public consultation paper detailing its plans to chop English Heritage into two organisations.
A new charity will retain the name English Heritage and will manage and conserve the organisation’s 440 sites, while a new arm called Historic England will carry out EH’s existing statutory and advisory role.
‘The government stupidly wrecked the organisation last year in the Regulatory Reform Bill,’ said Goodman. ‘Now English Heritage will be even weaker after the split.’
Goodman is concerned that Historic England, a much smaller organisation than the current body, will not have the power to properly protect England’s heritage sites.
She said: ‘If it is split, will Historic England have the resources to carry out the same work?’
‘We risk a slow deterioration of our heritage. You will see it chipped away slowly – the loss of a garden here or the loss of a house there. Then you will look back in 20 years’ time and realise what a problem it is.’
We risk a slow deterioration of our heritage
‘It really is a war of attrition over our heritage.’
Concerns were also raised by Richard Compton, president of the Historic Houses Association which represents 1,500 privately-owned historic properties.
Compton said: ‘It is imperative that English Heritage’s core functions of championing and safeguarding our nation’s heritage are protected. Our member historic houses depend on its expert advisory service and we would be extremely concerned if this were to be reduced or diluted in any way.’
He added: ‘We will seek assurances that the new Historic England will be able to give priority to its front line advisory services, its statutory role in the planning system and the maintenance of a grants programme for the restoration of historic buildings.’
Catherine Croft, director of the Twentieth Century Society said that plans for a separate body charged solely with listing and statutory services would be more ‘tightly-focused’ but raised concerns over the funding Historic England would receive.
Croft said: ‘A lot depends on whether [Historic England] has the same clout as English Heritage has now. I hope those key statutory activities are as well-resourced as they are at English Heritage at the moment.’
‘Its success will depend on how well-resourced the new organisation is and on the sort of leadership it has.’
A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: ‘Historic England will be substantially reduced in size, but will remain a body of expertise that the government will call on for advice.’