Policy Round-Up: October 2020

  • 31 Oct 2020
  • Article

Alongside the usual flurry of consultation responses and policy work, this month has seen us busy advising house members on the various new systems of restrictions that have been introduced in different parts of the UK. We’ve also been representing house members at sector roundtables, advocating at ministerial meetings and working on Scottish election planning as our house members transition into the autumn/winter season.

On fortnightly calls with the Heritage Minister, we've been emphasising the fact that financial challenges are particularly acute at historic house wedding venues, where business has been severely restricted since March. We are pushing the Government to use any leftover funds from the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to provide urgent business support for historic wedding venues. We have also been supporting the Wedding Venue Support Group, who are commissioning a legal challenge to the CMA’s guidance on wedding cancellations and refunds. The WVSG  are arguing on behalf of all venues that coronavirus related cancellations should in the first instance be covered by the clients’ insurers, not by the venue. If you'd like to get in touch with your MP on this issue, or on the funding issue, the Association of British Wedding Businesses have issued a manifesto to highlight the pressing needs of the industry, as well as a template letter that can be sent to MPs to raise political awareness.

In Scotland, we have been making further preparations for the Holyrood elections in the spring. As the manifesto drafting process gets underway for all the major parties, we will be submitting pledges which highlight the value of independent historic houses and gardens in Scotland, and asking the parties to recognise the socioeconomic contribution they make. As Scotland moves into a 5-tier lockdown system, we are emphasising the role of safely managed outdoor spaces in improving people’s wellbeing, as well as the thousands of jobs and rural supply chains our places support.

At the end of this month, we submitted our response to the Planning White Paper, which sets out a bold vision for the future of planning in England. We welcomed the paper’s commitment to reviewing the heritage consents system, and investigating ways to streamline the process for applicants whilst reducing the burden on local authorities – without diminishing heritage protection. Alongside sector colleagues, we also urged caution against a possible ‘zoned’ system, which has the potential to disincentivise investment and sensitive development in rural areas. We reiterated our position in a recent meeting with Simon Gallagher, the Director of Planning at MHCLG. He has welcomed our input, and invited us to contribute to the more detailed drafting stages of the heritage proposals in the new year.

Finally, we have just heard that England will move into another lockdown next month, lasting until 2 December. It will be similar to the first lockdown, with the exception of schools and universities remaining open; however, one important difference is that historic gardens and parks will be able to remain open throughout. We are delighted to see the Government has clearly listened to our consistent representations on this front; keeping historic gardens open throughout the lockdown will be essential for people’s health and wellbeing, and will offer a lifeline to struggling garden attractions across the country.

We remain hopeful that the lockdown will prove effective, and that some restrictions will be eased as the festive season begins.  As always, if you’re a member house and you would like advice on business support or government guidance during this time, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us via policy@historichouses.org


Emma and Lydia, the policy team



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