The inaugural All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Conservation, People and Places report was published today. It is a succinct read, which you can access it here.
In short the report brings a renewed focus on the importance of heritage buildings to society in the UK, whose framework is aligned to the three pillars of sustainability: economic, environment, and social impacts. Contributions are drawn from built heritage institutions and individuals across the sector to convene a coordinated and well edited document to highlight key recommendations.
Of the five recommendations, two are likely to find life in popular headlines: the harmonisation of VAT between new-build and repair and refurbishment work to existing buildings; and the presumption in the planning system against the demolition of existing buildings. Indeed this second recommendation reflects the recent challenges to the M&S development on Oxford Street, challenged by SAVE in a public enquiry held in October, more on which you can read here.
Some of the evidence gathered is inevitably nuanced, but a strength of the report is finding quantative means to demonstrate the tangible beneficial impacts of heritage upon all areas of our civic lives. Qualitatively, heritage is described as, ‘”..an engine for levelling up…”, as providing improvements to our quality of life thanks to its therapeutic effects, and as playing a, “…crucial role in reducing emissions from the construction sector”.
Rather poignantly, the report shines a light on the challenges of the relative inaccessibility of heritage sites along lines of social inequality, whose barriers can be felt down the generations. Education plays an important role here, and the Historic England programme ‘Heritage Schools‘ clearly offers an important role for primary school engagement to enhance students’ cultural capital with a deeper understanding of their personal connection with their local built heritage and its contribution to a distinctive and unique place.