Thursday, 3 December 2015
Saving Our Heritage II
In today’s Daily Telegraph (p.13) I spotted a disturbing article entitled, Historic buildings at mercy of council cuts. The piece spells out Historic England’s fears that public spending cuts are leaving older and listed properties extremely vulnerable. Spurred on in part by popular television programmes, there is a rising trend to redevelop old buildings, but the policing of such projects by local councils is becoming increasingly difficult. According to The Telegraph, “The number of archaeological specialists employed by councils has fallen 23 per cent since 2006 while conservation experts have been reduced by 35 per cent.”
In the article Historic England highlights the need for good professional planning advice and an up to date historic environmental record “allowing specialists to provide an early indication of the impact on heritage assets.” Of course this does not apply just to the sprucing up of old houses but also to the re-development of green field sites which may be hiding heritage assets.
Yet how are we going to protect our historic environment if we do not recognise the need to create a professional and efficient heritage infrastructure? In the Medway Towns in Kent this is starting to happen and on the evening of Monday 30 November heritage volunteers gathered at Rochester’s Guildhall Museum to celebrate the end of another year of success - and frustration. A considerable band of enthusiasts, myself included, do our best to support Medway’s heritage. Some projects this year, such as the restoration of Rochester’s Eastgate House, haven’t gone as smoothly as we would have liked. However, and what is perhaps more important, is that together we are starting to make a real difference. Simon Lace, Medway’s Heritage Services Manager, and Richard Hicks, Medway’s Director of Regeneration, Community and Culture, were both at the Christmas celebration and neither were slow to express their enthusiasm and support for what we as volunteers do. They were also swift to champion our common goal in promoting, preserving, and saving our precious heritage. Could this be the way forward?