Policy Round-Up: June 2021
Although June did not see the lifting of lockdown restrictions across the UK as anticipated, this month did bring an element of welcome news for wedding venues. Wedding venues in England can at last host receptions based on the venue’s capacity to socially distance guests – a significant improvement on the arbitrary 30 person numbers cap previously in place.
We also welcomed the news that civil wedding receptions in England and Wales will be allowed to take place outside from 1 July. This is a change for which we’ve been pushing for years, as part of our ongoing work feeding into the Law Commission’s review of marriage law in England and Wales. Throughout the pandemic we’ve been calling on government to introduce this flexibility as early as possible to help our member places meet demand for larger ceremonies, so we’re delighted to see the Government has listened. Although this is a temporary measure (until April 2022) there will be a consultation undertaken in the autumn to facilitate an amendment to the law to make this change permanent.
In Scotland, we have been busy setting up meetings with key cabinet secretaries and MSPs to introduce them to our work ahead of the launch of the Programme for Government in September. Fruitful meetings so far have covered gaps in Scottish Government support for heritage businesses, the need for consistent messages on Levels rules and tourism at the border, and the importance of heritage and rural considerations when drawing up regulatory reforms. With a range of house visits and introductory meetings arranged over the summer recess, we are looking forward to working closely with the new Scottish Government in the next term.
We have responded to several consultations this month, including calls for evidence on EPC targets, rural broadband and Historic England’s enhanced advisory services. The new Non-Domestic minimum energy efficiency standards will have a major impact on historic agricultural, commercial and community buildings, and in response we have promoted the retention and strengthening of the current exemptions system through the creation of an EPCs ombudsman. We also submitted evidence in support of a higher minimum broadband speed as part of the government’s review of improving connectivity in hard-to-reach places, and highlighted the crucial role digital services now play for rural businesses.
Lastly this month, we welcomed the launch of the third round of the Culture Recovery Fund in England. £40 million in operational support grants will be available to heritage sites at risk due to the pandemic through the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and Historic England will be administering capital Heritage Stimulus Fund grants aimed at programmes of major works at heritage sites. If you’re a member house, look out for our emails setting out the detail of how you can apply to either or both of these funding streams.
Emma and Lydia, the policy team