John Penrose MP, England’s Minister for Tourism and Heritage, yesterday spoke of the need to ‘nail for the ever the canard’ that economic growth and heritage are mutually opposed: ‘they coexist brilliantly’. Speaking at the English Heritage event Next steps for England’s heritage, he noted the essential contribution the historic environment makes to the other half of his portfolio, tourism, and to the nurturing spaces that stimulate and support the creative economy.
But to make that synergy work, some streamlining is required. Presaging the DCMS consultation we expect this summer, he outlined some important steps to be undertaken by that part of his department not engaged on Olympic duties. Many measures are familiar from the Penfold review and draft Heritage Protection Bill, and include defining the extent of a listed building’s interest, extension to the ability to apply from a certificate of immunity from listing, and a statutory basis for Heritage Partnership Agreements. As might be expected from the Penfold proposals, the proposals include certification of applications for Listed Building Consent from accredited agents. Similar proposals have been made for the natural environment. But disappointingly, once again, there was no reference to any parallel process for Scheduled Monument Consent. IfA has recently obtained confirmation from English Heritage that the process of granting SMC for archaeological purposes continues to be managed without reference to the professional accreditation of the archaeologists concerned. Quite why management of this particular type of heritage asset (some might say the most important type) continues to be operated in an accreditation vacuum remains an enduring mystery, and one that calls into question the extent of HMG’s compliance with the Valletta convention. IfA will continue to press for a more enlightened approach, and hopes that others will too before the consultation process that must now be imminent.