The Government intends to establish a charity to run the historic buildings in the National Heritage Collection on a self-financing basis. It is giving English Heritage a one-off payment of £80million to get the properties into good condition for their transfer to the charity.
The £80million investment in historic properties across the country was announced in the Government's Spending Review on 26 June. The investment is, says the Government, intended to protect and create jobs and boost local economies.
The National Heritage Collection – which includes structures such as Stonehenge, Kenwood, Audley End, the Bishop's Palace in Lincoln, Dover Castle, Furness Abbey in Cumbria, Charles Darwin’s home in Kent and a lot more besides – will remain in public ownership. However, the new charity will have to raise money itself to pay for the upkeep and management of the property portfolio.
In 2012-13 the English Heritage budget for these properties was £160million, £101.4million of which came from the Government.
There are already entry fees to English Heritage properties and EH says these are regularly reviewed. It says it will not be possible to raise all its income from this source because of the competitive nature of the market seeking to attract visitors and it will be looking for other support and fund raising.
Under current plans, the new charity will be set up by March 2015. It will retain the name English Heritage and, in due course, will be completely self-financing and no longer need tax-payer support.
The new arrangement will leave English Heritage’s planning and heritage protection responsibilities with a body that is (for now, at least) being called the National Heritage Protection Service. It is this body that will in future be responsible for awarding grants, advising on and overseeing renovation work and listing buildings.
The National Heritage Protection Service will be the Government’s expert on all aspects of England’s archaeological and built heritage. It will protect that heritage and play a leading role in identifying those buildings and monuments that matter to people most and are at greatest risk.
At the same time, it will be more public-facing and help to ensure the built heritage is understood, valued, cared for and enjoyed.
The Commission, which currently manages English Heritage, will run the National Heritage Protection Service and will licence the English Heritage charity to run the National Heritage Collection.
Public consultation will begin shortly on the proposed changes and in due course recruitment of a Chairman and trustees for the charitable trust will commence.
English Heritage says: “This is an excellent outcome to an extremely challenging Spending Review. This year we have been celebrating 100 years of state protection for heritage and today’s (26 June) announcement sets the scene for the next century.
“The Government’s £80million investment and the creation of the new charity will help us preserve the National Heritage Collection for the future, be true to the story of the places we look after, to aim for the highest standards in everything we do from our conservation work to the way we run our events, and to provide an experience that brings the story of England alive.
“The National Heritage Protection Service will continue to work for the survival of England’s historic environment as a constant source of beauty, intellectual and emotional stimulation and pleasure, a reminder of ancestral struggle and achievement.
"Our heritage is what makes England uniquely appealing to tourists and businesses and our job will be to make sure it continues to contribute to economic growth, to sustainability, and that it gives a sense of place and meaning as the backdrop to all our lives.”