Policy Round-Up: July 2020
July has seen the reopening of the tourism and hospitality industry - our members across the UK have been gradually starting to open their doors to house visitors, welcome self-catered guests and even celebrate the return of outdoor concerts, films and theatre performances. Towards the end of the month we were delighted to welcome the Secretary of State for Culture, Oliver Dowden MP, to Knebworth House on his first day of ministerial visits since lockdown began. He praised the hard work our member houses are doing to keep going throughout this difficult period, and stated that he “couldn’t ask for more passionate custodians”. This month we also welcomed the Shadow Tourism & Heritage Minister, Alex Sobel MP, to member houses Powderham Castle and Hever Castle, where he was able to see at first-hand the contribution our member places are making to their communities despite the challenges they’ve faced since March.
In the wake of the planning reforms announced earlier this month, we are amping up our efforts to ensure that heritage is considered in forthcoming planning reforms. The sad news of job losses at the National Trust this week was a stark reminder of the threats that our sector is facing, and the destructive impact of Covid-19 on heritage businesses and livelihoods. In view of these threats, we have put forward a list of targeted planning reform priorities, which are essential to help get heritage businesses back on their feet quickly and cost-effectively. We are engaging with Historic England, MHCLG and the relevant sector task groups to press for existing Permitted Development rights to be extended to heritage sites – to provide them with the same Covid-related business recovery and staff retention opportunities as the rest of the tourism and hospitality sector.
Elsewhere this month, we have been engaging in roundtable discussions with DEFRA to contribute to the drafting process of the new Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS). The sector has fought for heritage to be included in the Agriculture Bill’s definition of the environment, and the new ELMS scheme presents some promising options for heritage asset management, which we hope will go above and beyond the limitations of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. Above all, we have made it clear that conditionally exempt land must not be excluded from any eligibility criteria, that heritage options must be well funded and prioritised, and that the sensitive restoration and reuse of agricultural buildings must be enabled to protect them from further deterioration.
Finally, this month we welcomed the opening of the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage, part of a package that has been described as the biggest ever one-off investment in UK arts and culture – £92million of the £1.57 billion package has so far been ringfenced for heritage in England. We hope these grant funding opportunities will help many of our member houses to fund reopening, recovery and survival costs for the remainder of the financial year. This Fund is a major lifeline for independently owned heritage businesses such as our member houses, which have been excluded from so many other funding streams. We anticipate further capital grants schemes to be announced in the coming weeks – and we’re very pleased to end this month on a high note!
Emma and Lydia, the policy team
Image Credit : Oliver Dowden https://twitter.com/OliverDowden/status/1286302503529664512/photo/1