UK Government reaffirms support for international value of our heritage

The UK Government has renewed its commitment to protect and enhance the UK’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, to implement Cultural Property Protection both nationally and internationally, and to ensure the heritage sector is contributing its expertise globally, in a new Heritage Statement published in December 2017.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Heritage Statement reaffirms the UK government’s commitment to support the heritage sector, while setting out the Government’s direction and priorities for England’s heritage in the coming years.

Helen Maclagan, Culture Director at the UK National Commission for UNESCO, said:

“We welcome the new Heritage Statement, and it’s affirmation of the importance of heritage and the creative industries to the UK economy, society, and soft power. We look forward to working with DCMS to ensure the UK Government makes full use of the unique opportunities membership of UNESCO brings. Many of the UK’s heritage organisations are already contributing their expertise through UNESCO, and we look forward to exploring how this can be maximised to help the UK Government take forward its commitments. We welcome the emphasis on partnership working across heritage, museums and other culture sectors.

“We are delighted with the achievements of UK Government in implementing heritage elements of the 2016 Culture White Paper. These include ratifying the 1956 Hague Convention and acceding to its two protocols, and the establishment of the £30 million Cultural Protection Fund. We look forward to working with DCMS to ensure that our UNESCO World Heritage Sites remain protected and promoted in the future”

“UNESCO’s contribution to heritage globally in the UK is not just restricted to its fantastic 31 World Heritage Sites (28 of which are in the UK). The UK’s 6 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, 7 Global Geoparks, 10 Creative Cities and UNESCO Chairs are already active in taking forward the UK’s expertise in cultural and natural heritage, and have an important part to play in how the UK promotes its heritage expertise globally.”

The Heritage Statement focuses on four themes: (1) how our heritage creates great places, (2) promoting inclusivity, (3) maximising the potential of our heritage internationally, and (4) building a sustainable and resilient heritage sector. DCMS has confirmed it will produce an Action Plan to take forward the issues and proposals set out in the Statement.

In the International Section, the UK Government focuses on the heritage sector maximising its potential as a key component of the UK’s standing in the world. In particular, this means making the best use of the UK’s world-leading expertise in heritage and cultural protection, as well as heritage science and research. It outlines a number of Government priorities and areas of planned work:

  • Supporting UK expertise internationally: DCMS will work with Historic England and other partners to encourage and support public, private, and voluntary sector heritage organisations to work internationally. It will create international partnerships and increase voluntary sector heritage organisations capacity to do so.
  • Tourism and promotion: DCMS will work with and through the GREAT campaign and VisitBritain to promote our heritage and use it to encourage tourists, students, investors and businesses to choose to come to the UK.
  • World Heritage Sites: DCMS will continue to support the protection and promotion of the UK’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and consider further nominations in the future. DCMS will work with heritage organisations to develop strategies which will ensure that the management and stewardship of the UK’s World Heritage Sites are consistent and best practice is shared across the UK.
  • Cultural Property Protection: DCMS will remain active in promoting and supporting measures to protect heritage and cultural property around the world, and set up a cross-government working group on cultural protection to oversee and coordinate its response to the need for assistance and support for cultural protection abroad.

The Statement intends to build on the Culture White Paper (2016) and its broader Industrial Strategy. 

Other key announcements in the new Heritage Statement:

  • Heritage Council: DCMS will create a new body, chaired at Ministerial level, to ensure greater coordination and a strong voice for heritage within Government. The council will help to collaborate, exchange ideas and build consensus in areas such as planning, environmental protection, social and economic development, education, health and wellbeing, and international development.
  • Cultural Development Fund: Taking forward the development of a Cultural Development Fund to demonstrate the model of place-based development and the role that investment in culture, heritage and the creative industries can play in social and economic growth.
  • Capacity building: Working with Historic England, Heritage Lottery Fund, the Architectural Heritage Fund and other partners to examine ways of supporting heritage organisations to generate income.
  • Partnership working: Putting partnership-working across heritage and other cultural sectors and with local communities at the heart of the DCMS strategy for heritage and the historic environment.
  • Placemaking: Work across Government to ensure that the role of heritage in placemaking and economic development in areas where there is a commitment to embed the arts, culture and heritage in local plans and decision-making.
  • Post-CAP: Work across Government to continue to protect rural historic sites and features, enhancing the character of landscapes and supporting geodiversity.
  • Tax incentives: Continue to keep under review the tax and other financial incentives available for the conservation, repair and maintenance of historic buildings.
  • Digital Culture Project: Developing the links between heritage and other areas of DCMS business, including the digital agenda and the work of the Office for Civil Society, as well as the Government’s wider economic, social and environmental objectives.
  • Measuring impact: Bringing the sector together to develop the evidence base and create a common approach to evaluating the benefits of heritage.