Heritage bodies today (Thursday 7 May), united to urge Government to use its proposed statement on the historic environment to encourage local authorities not to cut historic environment services. A new report into local authority conservation and archaeology resources in England has revealed a recent drop in staff levels that could, heritage bodies claim, lead to a future crisis.
Dave Chetwyn, Chair of the IHBC, said: ‘It is crucial that local authorities maintain their full commitment to delivering sustainable regeneration and economic development during the credit crisis and recession. We are therefore especially concerned over the loss of design and heritage specialists who play such a crucial role in delivering effective services and development for the long-term. This is the worst possible time for local authorities to lose the skills that will be so vital to securing future growth’.
Ken Smith, Chair of ALGAO UK, said: ‘This report confirms the vital role of local authority historic environment professionals in conserving England’s cultural heritage through a wide range of activities. It also underlines their vulnerability and the need for positive action from local and national government to achieve comprehensive and continued management of the buildings and monuments that define the country’s character.’
Steven Bee, English Heritage Director of Planning and Development, said: “We understand that there is financial pressure in all sectors at present, but a lot of conservation duties are not discretionary for local authorities, they are a statutory duty. Specialist archaeology and conservation staff are the front line of heritage protection in this country and local authorities must recognise this. A future lack of such staff would create pressure and expense for householders applying for consent, and could block the regeneration and renewal projects vital for economic recovery. Skilled judgements on cases such as heritage at risk, historic parks and gardens, world heritage sites and historic places of worship cannot be done by someone with insufficient experience.