English Heritage Press Release 857/11/02
Monday 25th November 2002
MAKE THE PAST PAY
-First Ever Historic Environment Audit Shows England Neglecting Major Economic Asset-
An audit of all aspects of the historic environment published today, Monday 25 November, 2002, reveals our cultural landscape as England's most unexploited asset. The State of the Historic Environment Report 2002 (SHER) documents the quantity and condition and sets out the economic and social potential of all the country's historic buildings, rural sites and landscape, archaeology, heritage tourism and education. It is the first of its kind in Europe.
The report shows that our historic environment, an incomparable, economic and social asset is under attack. An irreplacable resource, it is suffering from a skills crisis, incongruous development, half a century of unsympathetic agricultural policy, inappropriate tax regimes, climate change and natural erosion, and of course, a lack of funds. Yet the report also contains hard evidence that maintaining historic places pays, in social, economic and environmental terms, and that the historic environment has never been so popular. The voluntary sector is strong and growing fast.
Conservation is changing to reflect the needs of today. Key players in the sector, the National Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage have responded to change.
SHER has been produced by English Heritage in partnership with the whole heritage sector.
Launching it today, Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of the Historic Environment Steering Group, said: "England has one of the richest cultural landscapes in the world. It is always subject to change. This is not a matter for regret as without change there would be no history. But change needs to be managed intelligently. The things that people value should not be thrown away thoughtlessly, through ignorance or for short-term gain. The State of the Historic Environment Report gives us the evidence on which to base policy and take action. It demonstrates why the historic environment matters and forms a benchmark against which future success or failure can be measured."
Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "This report reminds us how much people care about the historic environment. Our built heritage and cultural landscape are hugely popular with young and old, and with tourists and local people alike. The Government will do whatever is necessary to protect, preserve and promote it, but not as a backward-looking memorial to bygone times, rather as a productive and stimulating part of the way we live today."
The Economic Incentive
* The launch of SHER was held at the newly refurbished Treasury in London's Whitehall, taking the message to the heart of government that investing in the whole historic environment, not just castles and cathedrals but the buildings and landscapes that provide the context and setting for everybody's lives makes sound economic sense.
* Failure to repair old buildings is wasting irreplacable environmental capital. The energy embodied in the bricks alone of an average Victorian terraced house is enough to take a car 10 times around the world. More energy is used in demolition and yet more in replacement. Many modern materials consume more energy in their production than traditional equivalents and perform no better. A growing shortage of building skills is also a real threat.
* In terms of heritage tourism, 96% of visitor income benefits the wider economy and only 4% goes to the attraction itself. In 2001, there were 57.7 million recorded visits to 983 leading historic visitor attractions, plus thousands of visits to smaller sites and the countryside. Without continued investment in our historic environment, England's tourism industry will loose its greatest draw.
* Because they are popular with tenants and command a rental premium, over the last 21 years listed office buildings have consistently out-performed unlisted ones as an investment, achieving a return of 9.7% per annum compared with 9.4%. Yet the potential of many redundant historic buildings has still to be properly exploited.
* Investing in heritage education is investing in the future. 98% of the population want all school-children to be taught about the historic environment. Yet it is still not an essential part of the official curriculum.
The Historic Environment Under Threat
* Historic landscapes and archaeological sites are victims of development, intensive farming, forestry, water abstraction, natural erosion and climate change. Since 1945, the effect of agricultural policy has been to make arable farming the single biggest cause of loss of archaeological sites. At least 50% of original lowland peatland has been lost in the last 50 years and 13,000 wetland sites, generally England's most valuable and best preserved archaeological resources have been damaged or destroyed.
* Britain is the only major European country that does not allow some form of tax relief for maintenance of historic properties open to the public. As a result 26% of capital repairs at historic houses are funded each year by sales of works of art.
* The pace of change is faster than ever. SHER shows that about a third of all planning proposals involve a conservation element. But local authority resources have fallen by 10% since 1996 to deal with them.
* Historic parks and gardens are at risk from development pressures and a history of under-investment. Public parks are in worst condition, and declining, in the deprived areas where their contribution to the quality of life would be most valuable.
SHER does not pretend to have all the answers. There are many areas of the historic environment for which quantitative and qualitative indicators have still to be found. How, for example, does one measure the slow erosion of the highstreet by insensitive, piecemeal change. And what is the cost to our quality of life? Future annual editions of the State of the Historic Environment Report will attempt to answer such questions.
The public is invited to submit its views on SHER and to make suggestions on what should be included in future reports. Reponses can be made via the website www.historicenvironment.org.uk or in writing to State of the Historic Environment Report, English Heritage, 23 Savile Row, London W1S 2ET by 28 February 2003.
Photographs are available on the Press Association's Picselect site on www.papicselect.com in the English Heritage folder under SHER
The State of the Historic Environment Report is available from 25 November from www.historicenvironment.org.uk. Printed copies can be ordered from 0870 33 1181.
For further press information, please contact English Heritage Corporate Communications on 020 7973 3250 or [log in to unmask] Heritage has today published "The State of the Historic Environment Report 2002".