Government Approval of Changes to English Heritage

Letter from Sir Laurie Magnus, Chairman of English Heritage

I am pleased to let you know that, after a period of wide consultation, Ed Vaizey MP, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, has today announced final Government approval for the separation of English Heritage into two organisations.

A new charity, retaining the name English Heritage, will run the National Heritage Collection of historic properties. A newly-named non-departmental public body, Historic England, will be dedicated to offering expert advice, championing the wider historic environment and providing support for stakeholders in the heritage sector. The changes will come into effect on 1 April 2015. The Minister confirmed that the Government will provide additional funding of £88.5 million to invest in the National Heritage Collection. You can find the full details of the announcement on the DCMS website.

The English Heritage Charity will be responsible, under an operating licence from Historic England, for the care of the National Heritage Collection. Whilst all of its properties will remain in public ownership, it will be able to make the most of commercial and philanthropic opportunities. The additional Government investment will deal with urgent conservation defects and enable the upgrading of visitor facilities including the renewal of outdated displays. This will provide a better experience for visitors which will increase visitor numbers and grow membership. A summary of the business plan for the English Heritage Charity, which anticipates financial break even in 2022/23, has been agreed by Government and published today. We will shortly publish further details of where we plan to invest the additional funding from Government.

It was clear from the responses to the Government’s consultation on the New Model that there is a great deal of support for Historic England and a clear desire that it should continue to champion England’s heritage, providing expert advice, promoting constructive conservation and providing support with research, guidance and grants. No changes are proposed to our current duties and powers in planning and heritage protection. We are today publishing a draft of Historic England’s first Corporate Plan and we would welcome your views.

I am very pleased that Government has recognised that we need a level of security to give English Heritage and Historic England firm foundations for success. I therefore welcome the commitment in the Secretary of State’s letter to the success of the New Model and that this will be reflected in future Spending Reviews. I also welcome the guarantee that our grant from Government for 2014/15 and 2015/16 will be protected from any further cuts. This will enable us to concentrate all our efforts on giving English Heritage and Historic England the best possible start.

I shall remain Chairman of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, which will lead the work of Historic England and retain residual responsibility for the National Heritage Collection and for holding the Charity to account. The Charity will have a Board of Trustees, including myself, Sir Tim Laurence and various other Commissioners, but it will have a majority of independent members. We will advertise soon to recruit independent trustees. I am delighted that Sir Tim has been nominated as transitional Chairman elect of the Charity. His appointment is subject to ratification by the new Board of Trustees of the charity once appointed, at which point he will step down as a Commissioner.

Simon Thurley will continue to lead the process of establishing the New Model as English Heritage Chief Executive. However we will soon start the process of recruiting new Chief Executives for Historic England and the charity and, once these individuals have taken up their posts, Simon will stand down.

Simon has led a remarkable transformation of English Heritage over the last 12 years, culminating in the delivery of the New Model. He can justly be acclaimed as a major contributor, not only to our organisational development, but also to the heritage cause throughout England. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude. In the first half of next year Simon will be taking up a Senior Research Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research to write his book on the architecture of the Tudor and Stuart Court.

Mark Pemberton, our Director of National Collections, has decided, after 14 years of outstanding service, that this would be a good moment for him to step down following an appropriate period of transition. I am immensely grateful to him for all the work he has done to develop and execute the New Model.

Please let Simon or me know if you have any queries. We shall of course keep you informed of developments over the coming months. In the meantime, I hope that we can count upon your continuing support for the vital work we all do to ensure that England’s heritage is understood, protected and loved.

Sir Laurie Magnus
Chairman of English Heritage