Policy Round-Up: August 2020
Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston MP visiting Tissington Hall this month.
With parliament in recess, August has seen us focused on the various heritage grant schemes announced as part of the UK Government’s £1.57bn funding package for culture, and on the long-awaited planning white paper, which was announced earlier in the month.
At the start of the month we were encouraged by much of what we read in the newly-published Planning White Paper, which included several positive mentions of “reviewing and updating the planning framework for listed buildings” and “exploring new and better ways of securing listed building consent for routine works” – proposals we’ve been lobbying hard for over the last few years. We have written to MHCLG in support of these initiatives, and are working with cross-sector colleagues to open a dialogue about improving planning regulations whilst maintaining heritage protections. We have also continued to lobby the government to introduce temporary covid-related planning reforms, and have written to the UK Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick to call for immediate permitted development rights to support members’ businesses as they reopen.
We have encouraged all eligible member houses in England to apply for the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage, and we held a webinar to guide our members through the application process. The Major Works fund, announced later in the month, allowed Historic Houses itself to apply for capital funding on behalf of those of our member houses in England with a need in excess of £250,000. We are hopeful that many of our member places will be able to benefit from these funds once the grants are awarded next month. Meanwhile, we are awaiting the imminent launch of the devolved grant schemes in Wales and Scotland, and are pressing the case for privately managed historic house attractions to be considered on an equal footing with those managed by charities and public bodies. Our Scottish Chair Andrew Hopetoun has written to Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop to ensure that the funding for Historic Houses Scotland is at least on par with the £3.8million rescue package announced for National Trust Scotland last week.
Alongside our lobbying on planning policy, we will continue to call for additional support for the weddings industry as parliament returns and we look ahead to the Autumn budget. There have at last been some developments on this front, with receptions allowed to resume from 22 August in England and Wales. These events are limited to 30 people, however, and cannot involve singing or dancing, with social distancing in place. Despite these restrictions this is a step forward for many historic house venues, and if it can be shown that weddings can be carried out safely and securely we hope there will be further developments and relaxations on the horizon in the weeks ahead.
This is certainly one of the key messages our Heritage Minister, Nigel Huddleston MP, has been hearing during his visits to several of our member places this month; we were delighted to see the Minister at member houses Arley, Tissington (pictured), Arundel and Chatsworth during August.
Emma and Lydia, the policy team