Last weekend, I attended the AGM of RESCUE, the British Archaeological Trust, of which the Heritage Journal is an affiliated member. This is the third time I’ve been to the AGM, all of which have been held at the Surrey History Centre, in Woking. Due to an uncharacteristic sat-nav glitch, and lack of concentration on my part, I arrived a little late, but hopefully didn’t miss too much of the business end of the meeting.

Surrey History Centre, Woking.

Surrey History Centre, Woking.

The AGM itself, as usual was quite short – 30-45 minutes or so, and consisted of reports from the Chair, Secretary and Treasurer followed by votes for vacancies on the Council.

After a short break, giving a chance to grab some lunch and look at an interesting and informative display about the Old Oswestry Hill Fort campaign, there was a guest speaker. This year it was the turn of Stephen Trow, Heritage Protection Office for English Heritage who spoke to us on the subject of ‘Continuity and Change: the EH new model’. For those not aware, this concerns the proposals (put forward by English Heritage but not yet agreed by parliament) to split the current responsibilities of English Heritage into two new organisations: An ‘English Heritage’ charitable trust which will continue with the management of historical sites, and a new body ‘Historic England’ which will deal with planning applications, offer expertise, and protect historic buildings by considering scheduling proposals. (We have given our own views on the earlier announcement of the proposals here on the Journal)

The presentation was interesting, but necessarily at a fairly high level at this stage, given the status of the plans – it seems many of the details are still to be ironed out. But there was quite a bit of debate in the Q&A session, which ran for longer than the presentation itself. Questions were asked about the financial implications of some of the proposals, but the answers always seemed to boil down to the same point: there is no money to continue doing what English Heritage have done until now. There was a 34% funding loss for English Heritage in 2010, and there have been further losses every year since then. A further 10% cut is planned for 2015/16 and ‘spending restraints’ (i.e. more cuts) are planned to continue until at least 2019. So something has to change, and quickly. Different (i.e. cheaper) ways of doing the same things have to be found, and the workload has to be prioritised.

Although the point was made earlier by the Treasurer that Rescue’s membership has seen a slight rise this year, it was stressed that Rescue’s ability to change government policy when it comes to heritage matters is all about the numbers. The more members Rescue has, the louder the voice when lobbying. Of course, making people aware of those threats is of prime importance too.

rescue

So, what can you do to help Rescue save our heritage? Obviously the first point is to join Rescue!  It’s relatively cheap to join as an ordinary member (less than 5p/day over the course of a year) and as I said, numbers always count.

Secondly, Rescue is a voluntary organisation. Volunteers are always needed in all areas of the UK, so if you have time, scour the planning applications posted by your local council each week – if you think there is a danger to heritage, whether that be a building, landscape setting, loss of facilities etc., then let someone from Rescue know.

Thirdly, take a look at some of the previous consultation responses produced by Rescue. If you are aware of a specific threat and have experience or expertise in that particular area, why not step forward and offer your services to rescue to help formulate the next response?

Finally, financial help (over and above membership) is always welcome, so why not browse their publications list and buy one or more, or even consider making a donation?

Logo: RESCUE, the British Archaeology Trust

Logo: RESCUE, the British Archaeology Trust

Every little helps. We’re members. Are you?