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Implementing the Heritage Protection Reforms

This article presents the Executive Summary of ‘Implementing the Heritage Protection Reforms’, A Report on Local Authority and English Heritage Staff Resources Produced by English Heritage, the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation. It was originally published in May 2009.

Click here to see the full report.

[edit] Executive Summary

This report examines staff resources for archaeology and building conservation within local authorities, particularly within the planning process [1]. It also reports on the English Heritage staff resource working with local authorities on planning-related and grant-aid work. It has been produced by English Heritage (EH), the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO) and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC).

This report is an important part of the evidence base which will inform the introduction of the Heritage Protection Reforms (HPR). It also responds to the concerns expressed by some in the historic environment sector, and the Parliamentary Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, regarding the capacity of local authorities to implement the reforms set out in the draft Heritage Protection Bill, published in April 2008. The report is based on research of local authority staffing carried out by ALGAO and IHBC, plus information on staff within English Heritage dealing with planning advice and grant aid. It provides a provisional list of the tasks which historic environment local authority staff carry out, and establishes the age profile of these staff and those in comparable jobs.

The ALGAO figures show that the number of archaeologists employed in local government has increased over the past ten years, with a small drop between 2006 and 2008 [2]. The reason for this drop requires further investigation. The IHBC figures, for 2003, 2006 and 2008, show a similar profile [3], and again the drop between 2006 and 2008 will be explored further. Building conservation staffing is variable across England; in some local authorities, building conservation is well-provided for but others appear to lack any specialist provision at all.

Over the period of the reduction in local authority building conservation staff between 2006 and 2008, the numbers of listed building and conservation area consents has risen, and faster than planning permissions. This has led to increased pressure being placed on local authority historic environment staffing provision from the 2006 position. The staffing figures were collected during the autumn of 2008, so the full impact of the recession on local authorities cannot yet be factored in. Anecdotal evidence of more recent local authority historic environment job cuts suggests the overall historic environment service is under greater pressure. Further cuts could significantly affect local government’s ability to maintain an essential element of its statutory planning services and incorporate the Heritage Protection Reforms that all agree are necessary.

The list of historic environment tasks (see Appendix 1) includes legal duties under the Planning Acts; matters that local authorities should do in support of those duties; and other areas of work required by government policy that help ensure the historic environment is well cared-for. It is not possible for local authorities to discharge these duties appropriately, or take account of central government policies on the historic environment, without access to specialist archaeological and building conservation expertise. There is at present no system for reviewing local authority performance of these tasks, so it is difficult to assess both the current level of each activity and what level of future provision will be necessary. A second phase of the current research, on the detailed duties, powers and responsibilities of local authorities, will be published later this year.

Heritage Protection Reform in terms of the draft Heritage Protection Bill will not have a major impact on local authority staff requirements, as completely new responsibilities for local authorities are limited to the handling of a relatively small number of the future equivalent of scheduled monument consent applications, and central government is committed to funding any new responsibilities. However Heritage Protection Reform (HPR) in its widest sense of promoting closer integration of the planning processes and community interests, may well bring wider resource implications, even if they are less easily measurable at this point. Again, the second phase of this research will enable a firmer foundation for a better understanding of the wider impacts of HPR.

This report demonstrates that, contrary to the some of the views expressed to the Select Committee, the age profile of local authority staff working in archaeology and building conservation is not significantly different from those of other professional groups, and is therefore not a heritage-specific crisis that some had suggested. The age profile for archaeologists is actually younger than the average. This is therefore not an area for particular concern at the present time, but changing patterns will need to be monitored in future to allow a response should worrying trends emerge.

The report recommends:

References:

Click here to see the full report.

--Institute of Historic Building Conservation

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