New thinking needed to avert crisis in heritage, says CLA

07 October 2013

The CLA today (14 July) launched a new vision for England's heritage system, Averting Crisis in Heritage: A CLA Report on Reforming a Crumbling System.

The Association, whose members manage more than a quarter of heritage in England and Wales, launched its report with both criticism of the current "dysfunctional" system, and of official attempts at reform.

CLA President William Worsley said: "Local authorities do not have the skilled conservation staff that the existing heritage system demands but the Government and English Heritage seem to be in denial about the extent of the problem. 

"It has been obvious for many years that the system is not working properly. The previous Government began the still-ongoing 'Heritage Protection Review' in 1999 but this never diagnosed the real problems and never produced solutions which work.

"The CLA's recommendations set out to increase, rather than reduce, heritage protection. They aim to create a heritage system which works with the resources available, focusing them where they are most effective, and improving heritage policy to make desirable change easier and undesirable change harder." 

The Government comes under fire because of a proposed Heritage Bill which the CLA says "was too complex and will never happen" and because of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's thinking that heritage is mostly paid for by the state. The CLA says heritage is funded almost entirely by those who use and own it, with the state taking far more in tax from heritage than the small amount it spends on it.

The CLA also criticises English Heritage's new 2011 "National Heritage Protection Plan", saying it "diverts resources and attention from the real problems by focusing on researching and designating new areas of heritage".

Mr Worsley added: "The CLA has analysed the real problems, such as the difficulty in getting consent for sympathetic changes, and come up with solutions so that heritage can be valued, used and relevant to the future.

"Our recommendations are not vague aspirations. They are easily achievable and realistic. Almost all involve no substantive new spending by the Government, or even involve much effort from it because they are for the heritage sector to implement." 

Download Averting Crisis in Heritage: A CLA Report on Reforming a Crumbling System