Policy Round-Up: November 2021


November is a key month in the Historic Houses calendar. It marks our annual AGM, reinstated at the QEII conference centre 2 years after our last in-person AGM, and the launch of our member survey, which helps us to collect vital evidence for our policy and lobbying work.  We were pleased to welcome over 400 house members in London on 16 November, including an opening speech by heritage minister Nigel Huddleston, and a keynote by Lord Leicester, who gave this year’s Savills Lecture.

We were also thrilled that so many could join to celebrate this year’s award winners: Radbourne Hall won the Restoration Award, Gordon Castle won the Garden of the Year Award (with Elton Hall as the Judges’ Choice winner), Powderham Castle won the Frances Garnham Award for innovation in education, and Browsholme Hall won our first-ever Sustainability Award. An audio recording of the event is now available on our website.

November also brings the annual Heritage Debate, which this year focused on Levelling Up. A panel of heritage sector experts discussed how we can put heritage at the heart of the new agenda, which is expected to be laid out in a white paper in the new year. With 1 in 12 people in the UK involved in a heritage organisation the potential impacts of our sector are significant, but 73% of attendees said that the Levelling Up agenda did not yet offer clear tangible opportunities. All panellists agreed that heritage is ideally placed to offer meaningful community regeneration through service provision, engagement programmes, wellbeing benefits and volunteering opportunities – but the challenge is transferring this potential to tangible policy outputs. You can explore more contributions to the debate on the Heritage Debate blog here.

We continue to look out for next steps on the response to the planning white paper. It now looks increasingly likely that planning will be included in a Levelling Up Bill next year, along with a review of the National Planning Policy Framework. We have submitted a response to the Government’s consultation on the Future of Time-Limited Permitted Development Rights, which propose promising pragmatic amendments to the planning regime to support heritage businesses – and we are hopeful that a similar approach might be taken in the Planning Bill itself. We also continue to look out for developments around the future of Environmental Land Management and the Environment Act to feature on the agenda. Finally following the Spending Review, we await detail on what it will mean for DCMS or the Arms Length Bodies in the cultural sphere.

It has now been announced that face mask requirements are to be tightened in England, after the discovery of a new worrying Covid variant. They are now required by law on public transport and in shops in England, but not in cafes or restaurants. We will continue to keep a watchful eye on developments in response to the new Omicron variant, and keep our members informed of any restrictions relating to tourism and hospitality.

Lydia and James, the policy team