CLA heritage policy: priorities and achievements
Why we care about heritage
Almost all CLA members own heritage, listed/scheduled or not. Collectively, they manage and/or own a quarter to a third of all heritage in England and Wales (and more than half of the up to a million traditional farm buildings, and rural archaeology). Looking after heritage is therefore a core activity for CLA members. But it is often a core cost rather than a source of profit: CLA members collectively are spending well over £1 billion a year on maintaining and managing heritage (vastly more of course than government).
CLA heritage policy
Most people – and certainly most CLA members – think the heritage of England and Wales is important and should be looked after. But looking after it is painfully expensive. The state never has paid much of that cost, and never will.
The survival of heritage depends (as always) on people being willing to own it and to spend money on it. In most cases they can realistically only do that if it is economically viable and relevant to the future. That in turn requires it to be allowed to be used, and to change. A heritage protection system is essential, but it must work effectively and proportionately and allow properly-managed change. This is the essence of the CLA's heritage policy. It is also obvious commonsense. But while many people sign up to this in principle, the CLA is just about the only organisation actively lobbying on a day-to-day basis for this to happen.
Heritage protection is not working
In practice, much of the time, this is not happening. The system is complex, and more particularly it assumes that any change to heritage is potentially damaging and needs to be scrutinised by experts. This might be fine in theory, but in practice, in the under-resourced local authorities which take nearly all the decisions, those experts just aren’t there, and cuts are making this rapidly worse. Owners are usually dealing with general development management staff who know little about heritage and are hugely overworked. The result is local authorities not responding at all, or giving inconsistent answers, or demanding disproportionate amounts of information to encourage applicants to give up, or just saying “no”. The result is uncertainty, inconsistency, delays, and high costs, and – because of a widespread perception that getting consent is impossible – both the abandonment of projects which would have given historic buildings a better future, and an apparent epidemic of unauthorised work.
The system is not working and needs substantial but constructive change.
CLA achievements in heritage and planning
We have of course not solved all these problems, yet. But as by far the largest ‘stakeholder group’ of those who look after heritage, the CLA is taking a very proactive role in this debate:
There is much, much more to do. Current key initiatives include:
Feedback from CLA members is extremely helpful and welcome on these and other heritage issues. Please contact:
This page last updated January 2013
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Jonathan Thompson MA MBA DipM
Advises on heritage policy, historic and listed buildings, scheduled
monuments and archaeology, parks and gardens, viable uses and grants.
T: 020 7460 7936
T: 020 7460 7934
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