Heritage Protection Bill excluded from the Queen’s speech on 3rd December 2008: A Rescue comment

Rescue is disappointed and concerned to see that the Heritage Protection Bill has been omitted from the Government’s legislative programme for 2009, as outlined in the Queen’s Speech today, and “put on hold”

Despite a statement suggesting the Government is “…100% committed to preserving and protecting our precious historic environment” the failure to pursue the Bill at this time sends out a poor message about the importance the Government attaches to our historic environment – particularly to the Heritage profession which has generally supported the need for reforms in the sector and actively engaged in the process of discussion and consultation about constructive ways forward.

Despite its shortcomings, this proposed Bill was an attempt to provide some measure of coherence to the many strands of historic environment legislation currently in place. The Bill also addressed some areas of definite need – the provision of statutory status for Historic Environment Records across England and Wales is perhaps chief amongst these, but there was also for the first time formal protection of the country’s World Heritage Sites, Historic Parks and Gardens, Registered Battlefields, and sites of early human occupation. As it stands, these sites still have no formal protection regimes, and Rescue is now calling on the Government to urgently implement these particular aspects of the proposed legislation as soon as possible, whether or not the Heritage reform package survives in its current form in the future.

Considerable resources have been expended by a number of Heritage organisations in attempting to further this process, valuable resources which it now appears may have been wasted, and which could have been better utilised in protecting the heritage of the country itself. Rescue recognises that these are exceptionally challenging times, and that the Government must make decisions to ensure the economic outlook improves. Rescue does not believe that this is incompatible with robust and effective protection for the historic environment in general and for archaeology in particular. We would urge the government to ensure that the decisions about our future are not made without considering the urgent need to protect and conserve the remains of our past.

Notes:

For the Government quotes see the statement from ministers on DCMS website at:
http://www.culture.gov.uk/what_we_do/historic_environment/5644.aspx

The statement can also be found on the English Heritage website:
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.20038

with links to further pages about what can and cannot be achieved without legislation.

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