Massive funding cuts, loss of Green Belt, community incentives, fewer buffer zones, settings breached, the list goes on. The government seems profoundly heritage-unfriendly. But at least we still have English Heritage which “champions our historic places” on our behalf. But noticeably less lately, why wouldn’t it? Less money, less people, less power, less intervention, less mandate. Plus a parallel philosophical change , “conservation creep” whereby conservation no longer means protecting from change and is now the process of managing change”. It all looks suspiciously like a watchdog being forced into the role of a lapdog by a developer-friendly government.

The latest evidence comes from EH’s Improvement Plan for Planning Services. EH is still said to be there to prevent substantial harm to the significance of designated heritage assets” yet staff must nowgive priority to projects and advice on managing change in the historic environment that deliver wider benefits, i.e. that achieve influence beyond the immediate matter or that inspire public confidence in the benefits obtained from the historic environment“. Not exactly championing or protecting then. In fact the key theme of the document is that EH must ensure “that its advice and decision-making is focussed on promoting sustainable development. The whole document is worth a read but these stand out:

Action 14 – English Heritage will continue to develop links with key developers whose interests affect the historic environment. We will undertake joint events and training with development interests as appropriate and as resources permit.
Action 15 – English Heritage will deliver a named relationship manager at Director level for the largest 25 developers.
Action 17 – EH will appoint an additional member of staff to provide further bespoke advice on the growth potential of heritage assets.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has authorised me to say: "Grr"

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has authorised me to say: “Grrr”