Policy Round-Up: December 2021

Carlton Towers fireworks

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the policy team! This month we take a look back at the last weeks of 2021, which were as politically busy as ever. New covid measures came into place across the UK this month, including mandatory mask wearing indoors, the use of Covid passes and advice to work from home and limit social contact.

At meetings with civil servants at DCMS and the Heritage Council, we have been highlighting the potential impacts of any further restrictions on tourism and hospitality businesses. We have emphasised the value of continued VAT reduction, but also that wedding businesses have been unable to take advantage of the reduced VAT rate or to apply for support from the culture recovery fund. Thank you too all members who submitted evidence on what restrictions would mean for your businesses in our survey – this has been presented to the Treasury to review whilst they consider further support packages.

Elsewhere this month it was announced that the freedoms to erect marquees and other temporary structures for hospitality venues and historic visitor attractions are being made a permanent fixture. Listed pubs, restaurants, cafes and historic visitor attractions will be able to erect a moveable structure for 120 days in a 12-month period, subject to prior approval by the local council. Although 120 days is not year-round, this is nonetheless great news considering the likelihood that marquees and temporary structures are likely to be a continuing feature of life in the face of Covid.

The Ministry of Justice has also launched a consultation to ask whether the temporary freedoms for holding wedding ceremonies outdoors (introduced on 1 July last year and set to expire on 5 April 2022) should be made permanent. It sounds like the government has every intention of making this change, subject to the consultation, although they cannot guarantee that it will be in place by 6 April. This would be ahead of major changes to wedding licensing currently under consideration by the Law Commission, which will report in summer 2022. Again, this is all good news, and in line with things that Historic Houses has been pushing for, alongside others from the weddings sector.

2022 promises to be another busy year for policy, but these two good news stories demonstrate that government is listening to the calls that we and others have been making to support heritage businesses in this difficult time. In the first quarter of 2022 we anticipate the publication of the Levelling Up White Paper, the Planning Bill and the new Heritage Statement. These long-anticipated developments will provide new opportunities to build upon this year’s lobbying wins, with a flurry of fresh consultations expected in January.

This month we are also saying goodbye to our Policy Officer Lydia, who will be moving on in January after 2 and a half years with us. We are excited to welcome Sarah Roller to the Team next year to hit the ground running in 2022. We look forward to engaging with all the challenges and opportunities the new year will bring!

Lydia and James, the Policy Team