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Policy Round-Up: July 2021

Politics

This month, England moved to Step 4 of the government’s roadmap, bringing the most significant easing of restrictions since Covid hit last March. This means that weddings and events of any size can now go ahead, groups of any size can stay together in accommodation, and house or garden tours can run for unlimited numbers. However, whilst most limits on social contact and events have now been lifted, the government has emphasised the personal responsibility of individuals and business owners to continue to carefully manage risks for themselves. The Government has set out a new plan for businesses on working safely in Step 4, including guidance for heritage attractions.

Gradual unlocking continued north of the border in July, with Scotland now moving to the lowest level of Covid restrictions – Level Zero – as it continues its roadmap out of lockdown. However, some limits on outdoor meetings have been maintained, and the mandatory use of face coverings is to remain in place for some time. Wales, like Scotland, has adopted a more cautious approach to removing Covid restrictions compared to England. If the data allow, Wales plans to move to Level Zero from 7 August, when all limits on gatherings will be removed, but face coverings will continue to be a requirement in shops, on public transport and in health care settings.

At the start of this month we launched our new Historic Houses Sustainability Award, sponsored by Savills. This exciting new award seeks to recognise the many innovative projects our member houses and gardens are undertaking to address the climate emergency, by reducing carbon emissions, generating renewable energy or restoring the natural environment. The award will be judged by a panel of experts and presented to the winning member house or garden at our national AGM in November. The award is now open for applications, and we encourage all member places making a difference in this area to apply. We are also busy preparing for our first Sustainability Conference in October, when we will hear more about our member houses’ environmental innovations as well as cutting edge insight from experts in the field. Stay tuned for more details coming next month.

Lastly, the third round of the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage has now been launched in England. The ‘Emergency Support Strand’ of this funding is available to eligible sites that have not received Culture Recovery Funding so far, and has been put in place to support heritage sites in the recovery period. Another strand of funding (the ‘Continuity Support Strand’) aimed at existing grantees will be launched later in the summer. We have also been busy over the last few weeks putting together an application to the Heritage Stimulus Fund (which provides grants for capital works to eligible heritage sites) on behalf of a group of our member houses.

Finally, at the end of July we will welcome James Ford to the policy team as interim Director of Policy & Public Affairs, while Emma heads off on maternity leave. We look forward to working with James as we continue to press the case for greater support for independent historic houses and gardens, and we wish Emma all the best as we say farewell (for now)!

Emma and Lydia, the policy team