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Message from HRH Prince of Wales

The message from His Royal Highness is:

The use of traditional craft skills, not only to preserve our country’s heritage, but also to enrich new development, is an issue of great importance to me, and I’m only sorry that I’m unable to be with you today, to contribute further to this fundamental debate. I am acutely aware that the demand from our heritage economy - now that at long last we appear to be treating our old buildings with the respect they deserve - means that all over the country, projects cry out for a new generation of skilled young people to replace those reaching the end of their careers, with a lifetime’s experience to pass on. At the same time, by integrating these skills into a modern construction economy, we have the chance to build a new architecture of continuity and real sustainability that responds to local climate, culture, materials and building traditions.

It is clear that the market distinctiveness holds a genuine attraction for business, and it’s not only now making commercial sense to adopt these skills in construction, but it also provides the clearest and simplest platform to meet today’s sustainability challenges. The promotion of traditional crafts means we are truly building for the long term, by considering ease of maintenance, durability and the environmental impact of the buildings we will leave as a legacy to future generations. Likewise, through the promotion of traditional craft skills, we allow many young people to achieve their true potential, something that my Prince’s Trust has been involved in for the past 31 years. For too long, far too many young people have been discouraged from discovering their true talents, and thus from the kind of psychological and social wellbeing to which they should be entitled.

I have nothing but the greatest possible respect and admiration for the skills craftsmen, and it is high time this country started to recognise the immense and unique contribution they make. I am most grateful to the National Heritage Training Group, whose hard work and commitment in recent years has further encouraged the development of craft skills across the various sectors throughout the country. In September 2006, my Foundation for the built environment, in partnership with ConstructionSkills and English Heritage, launched the Cotswolds Heritage Skills Academy, to help train a new generation of craftspeople. I hope this is the first of a series of such cross-disciplinary heritage skills facilities planned around the country. The model is already being taken to the north-west, and to Yorkshire. My Foundation for the Built Environment is also playing its part by developing its building crafts apprentices programme, now in the first year of expanded operation, which commences with a residential summer school this month in Lincoln, followed by a two-week placement at the World Heritage Site of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal near Ripon in Yorkshire. We need many more such programmes that can make a real and urgent investment in our future skill practitioners.

There are many organisations and agencies represented here today, who could make a dramatic difference if they were able to run such training and apprenticeship programmes before it is all too late, and we lose the accumulated experience of an older generation of craftsmen. Conferences and seminars are all very well - I have either initiated or attended all too many of them - but what we need most of all is practical action and practical investment on a continuing basis, and sooner, rather than later. I can only pray that by such efforts we can further a real commitment to developing the skills craft base in Britain, both by maintaining our heritage for future generations, and also fulfilling the longer-term building by addressing sustainable and sensitive place-based building construction, that can become the genuine craft-based heritage of the future, which once again, draws its inspiration from nature, and reconnects us to her timeless principles.

This message comes with my warmest best wishes for a successful event.

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