The Culture White Paper: National Trust view on ambitions and challenges for heritage

Today the Department for Culture, Media and Sport released the first strategy for arts and heritage in more than 50 years.  In this blog we take a look at what this means both for the National Trust and the heritage sector more widely.

A family visiting Ham House and Garden, Surrey. ©National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

A family visiting Ham House and Garden, Surrey. ©National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

The Culture White Paper outlines the key issues facing arts, museums and galleries, libraries, archives and heritage today and ambitions for how government and public bodies will address those issues to ensure that everyone can enjoy and benefit from culture.

As a charity which was founded over 120 years ago on the simple and enduring idea that people need historic, beautiful and natural places, the National Trust is passionate about the importance of protecting our nation’s heritage for everyone to enjoy.

So it’s good to see clear recognition from the Government of the value of heritage and culture and their ongoing support for Historic England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, both of which provide vital support for owners across the country, both private and public, to look after the UK’s heritage.

However, our 10 year strategy, Playing Our Part, recognises the many challenges facing the sector in the 21st century.  From making experiences of heritage sites and the countryside relevant and inspiring for everyone in a rapidly changing world, to the uncertain future facing those who provide these experiences in a new era where public funding is much reduced.

We’ve highlighted the impact that spending cuts to local authorities have on the heritage sector and on our ability to achieve our core purpose in a previous blog.  We rely on local authorities’ planning departments being adequately resourced and having the right levels of expertise on ecology, archaeology, conservation and heritage to help us look after National Trust places, but also the wider countryside, coast and beautiful urban landscapes.  This resourcing crisis must be faced and tackled by Government, with sector involvement, to ensure it is both cost effective and sufficiently protects places into the future.

The White Paper pledges to promote the role that culture has in building stronger and healthier communities and boosting economic growth.  Research released by the team behind Heritage Open Days earlier this month supports the idea that visits of local historic or cultural interest help people relax, keep active and healthy or feel better about themselves.  Heritage Open Days in September 2015 saw over 3.4 million adults visiting nearly 5,000 events over three days, which was estimated to bring benefits of more than £15 million to local economies.

Government plans for Heritage Action Zones, to advise communities on how they can make best use of their historic buildings, and Local Cultural Partnerships, to develop cultural strategies, are of particular interest to us. We will consider what we can do to support these initiatives.

Finally, it’s important to find ways of appreciating the whole of what our heritage has to offer.  Our heritage is everywhere – in our countryside, our parks, and the green spaces that we love; in our cities, towns and the streets we walk down every day.  Finding ways to make people’s experience of heritage stimulating and rewarding is our best chance of inspiring the next generation to love and protect special places into the future.

We look forward to playing our part in doing just that.

Read the Culture White Paper here.

You can download the National Trust’s Playing Our Part strategy here.

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