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Speeches and presentations

16th NOVEMBER 2005


  • Thank you Neil. I am sorry that I have joined you late in the evening and missed the earlier presentations and speeches. I had to meet the Prime Minister but I was very keen to be with you tonight, albeit for only a short time.
  • Today we are celebrating the fourth edition of Heritage Counts which is becoming an increasingly valuable tool for us all.
  • Once again it has given us a vivid picture of the state of our historic environment in all its richness.
  • We are gradually building up a picture of the wonderful opportunities our heritage gives us, as well as the challenges we face if we are to care for it effectively.

Our Rural Heritage

  • This year’s focus on our rural heritage is particularly interesting to me personally. I love the dry stone walls, hedgerows and the historic landscapes that surround us.
  • I was in your part of the world recently Jim - the Dorset Coast (note – its his constituency). A breathtakingly beautiful World Heritage site which like so much of our coastline is under threat of erosion.
  • I am glad that our two Departments are working so closely together on the Marine Bill to ensure that we come up with a truly integrated approach to coastal zone management.
  • The report also highlights the challenge facing our rural churches – which represents so much of our rural heritage.
  • I recognise that it is a perpetual challenge to raise funds to carry out the essential repair and maintenance to these and other private owned historic assets.
  • That is why I am so pleased that the Listed Places of Worship scheme is now working so well, and is providing over £1m a month for repairs to listed places of Worship.
  • The Churches Conservation Trust is also working on some imaginative initiatives to keep redundant churches in use as community buildings.
  • [Jeremy/Claudia – to amend and add more on Church initiatives as suits]

Joined Up Government

  • Although I missed Jim’s speech I am aware that his Department’s Rural Development Programme has provided wonderful opportunities to breathe new life into our rural historic environment, much of which has never been formally designated as rare or extraordinary.
  • And yet these everyday, vernacular buildings are what bring character and distinctiveness to our rural environment.
  • The listing process passed them by – for the curious historic reason that the first listing surveyors were forbidden to use farm tracks, with the fairly predictable result that few farm buildings were listed.
  • And yet this makes them no less valued or valuable. That they have been central to so many of the Defra agri-environment projects is testimony to that.
  • The research published jointly by Defra and English Heritage provides a real insight into how this investment in the historic environment has delivered a wide range of social and economic benefits.
  • We already had some excellent example of this kind of heritage led regeneration in urban settings. Now we have clear evidence that the same is true in rural communities.

    Heritage Skills

  • I understand that the Rural Development Programme has also stimulated demand for heritage craftsmen and women.
  • I have long been concerned about that heritage skills deficit which has been highlighted in every edition of Heritage Counts to date.
  • I am therefore particularly pleased that thanks to the joint efforts of English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund and CITB-ConstructionSkills (the Sector Skills Council for construction) we finally have a programme in place to tackle this.
  • Initiatives such as the Training the Trainers scheme which is improving the knowledge and skill of college tutors in the conservation and repair of traditional building materials and the pilot training scheme to train clay building craftspeople in Cumbria, which will be used as a model for other regions and other threatened crafts, are significant steps to help reverse the decline and ensure that our traditional skills are not lost for ever. [Seamus to amend as necessary]
  • I know Defra are starting work on the successor to the Rural Development Programme.
  • I do hope Jim that you will use this evidence to show how heritage can help to deliver our wider social and economic goals and to make the case for it to continue to be a priority for the successor scheme. [Tim to amend/ supplement as necessary]

Joined Up Government

  • This is an excellent example of the synergies which exist between our two departments and where English Heritage brings our agendas together.
  • We are working closely with Defra and the ODPM on a number of other important projects including the Heritage Protection Review. We will publish a White Paper in 2006 which will draw heavily on work being done across the three departments on issues such as planning reform, marine spatial planning, and management agreements.
  • In this context I should also mention Stonehenge where we are working in partnership with the Department for Transport, English Heritage and the Highways Agency.
  • I cannot tell you how frustrated I am about the slow progress with this project. It sometimes feels as if we are going backwards rather than forwards.
  • As you all know we are dealing with a very complicated set of issues where we have to balance our heritage objectives with a number of very practical issues, not least the value for money question.
  • Our vision for the site is right. I just hope that together we can make it a reality. [Mandy to adjust as necessary]

Better Places To Live – next steps

  • Earlier this year I published my essay Better Places to Live. I am most grateful to all of you who have contributed – both for ideas before it was written and afterwards in response to the questions I posed in the essay.
  • There has been a lively debate but I don’t think it is over yet.
  • I think we are agreed that we need to do more to capture and present evidence for the value of heritage.
  • This will be particularly important as we start to prepare for the Comprehensive Spending Review next year.
  • I am therefore particularly grateful to Liz and the Heritage lottery Fund who came up with the idea of a conference to take forward the agenda on Heritage and Public Value in January - the 25th and 26th if you want to put the date in your diary now.
  • This will provide us with an important opportunity to look at:

    (i) the intrinsic value of our historic and built environment, and in particular how this defines us as a nation in the 21st century;

    (ii) How we quantify the instrumental value of our heritage; and

    (iii) whether we as institutions have the right values, including the right levels of diversity, to enable us to make the right linkages between the public and the historic environment.

    These are big challenges – but not challenges we can avoid. I look forward to continuing the debate in January and beyond.

Heritage and the Olympics

  • I cannot end without mentioning the Olympics. I am in no doubt that our rich and diverse heritage was one of the factors that helped us win the bid.
  • Our Olympics theme is Friendship and the Voyage of Cultural Discovery. Heritage brings us together as nations. I want us to put our heritage at the heart of the Voyage.
  • Our historic environment will be the backdrop to much of the Olympics. Three of the venues – Greenwich, Westminster and the Dorset Coast - are World Heritage sites – to say nothing of the many other outstanding buildings and sites that our Olympic visitors will enjoy all over the country.
  • We must encourage them to make the most of this opportunity. I want us to work together to set up a “Heritage Trail” for the Olympics.
  • I know English Heritage has been involved in the work to develop the Lower Lea Valley from the earliest stages providing an historical overview of the Olympic site.
  • This highlighted the rich historical past of the area from prehistory up to the industrial activity of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  • As a result, the regeneration of the area will take proper account of its local distinctiveness and its historic environment - above and below ground. This may also use skilled craftspeople trained at the Building Crafts College in Stratford, right on the doorstep of the Olympic site.
  • And I know that English Heritage have plans to work with the local communities, and in particularly the children in the area to create a record of the historic changes that will be made to that environment over the next decade. [Deborah = OK?]
  • I hope we can do something similar for the other venues too. We can look at how many of the Olympic nations already have communities in London, and how they have helped shape what we value in our society today.
  • This might include inputs from the local communities – telling their stories about what brought them to the UK and what the Olympics will mean for them.
  • And last but by no means least I hope we can also highlight our Sporting heritage. Here out Voyage of discovery might highlight key sites in the UK marking the development of our sporting heritage, as well as our links to the heritage of the modern Olympic movement by telling the story of Much Wenlock as well as celebrating Stoke Mandeville hospital as the home of the Paralympic Games.

Words 1571

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