A new Ancient Monuments Act will apparently shortly be published, but already main outlines are beginning to emerge. There will be three core proposals.
Firstly, the distinction between ancient monuments and historic buildings will be done away with and will be replaced by a new unified Register of Historic Sites. Secondly, there will be a new ‘Heritage consent’ regime; one waits to see how this will work. Thirdly, there is the new concept of ‘Heritage Partnership Agreements’ which will provide a new way of managing large complex sites, so that a whole estate can be considered under a single agreement. In an article in Historic Churches, a special report of the Buildings Conservation Directorate, Simon Thurley, the Chief Executive of English Heritage outlines how it will work for churches.
For many churches, the future may lie in increased community use or voluntary activity, but many churches do not have the skill or resources to attempt such a scheme. Thus English Heritage will encourage denominations to create ‘dedicated support officers’ to guide them through the bureaucracy. These officers will first take a strategic approach to the buildings in a diocese. The second element will then be to guide and advise the congregations looking after its buildings.
And the cost of it all? Some posts have already been funded in three Church of England dioceses, but to cover the country, English Heritage would be prepared to spend £2m to part fund 15 new posts and to provide training. Assuming that part funding means half funding, the scheme would cost £4m over the country as a whole. In other words, Heritage Partnership Agreements are going to be expensive.
This opinion comes from CA issue 208