From Chris Pickford

David Bryant david at b...
Mon May 10 10:48:50 BST 2004

>From Chris Pickford (he's having problems with emailing the list):

The Society of Antiquaries' online newsletter recently carried a short note on the "listing controversy" - simple, factual and fair, but I can post it if people would like to see it - and today's issue published the following contribution to the debate:

"[a Fellow] has responded to the article on retuning church bells by saying that the registration scheme for ancient bells should be supported because ‘the money-saving tendency is for parishes to melt down an old bell and use the metal to cast a new one when a ring is being modernised, enlarged, or replaced. A great many early bells have been lost in this way’. Retuning church bells, he adds, ‘is not too great a problem if historical methods are used’."

Unfortunately, people with such limited understanding of the issues are all too often the ones in positions of power and influence. 

But a recent issue of the newsletter also carried a piece about new policies and new thinking "at the top" in English Heritage. List members may be interested in this:

English Heritage reveals its new approach to heritage protection
Our Fellow Sir Neil Cousins opened the Institute of Field Archaeologists annual conference in Liverpool at the start of April by announcing ‘a radical rethink in the way we designate and manage the heritage’. The reforms he announced — already foreshadowed in the heritage review published by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport last July — could lead to the creation of a single list for all designated heritage assets, whether palace, terraced house, ancient monument, historic park or garden, shipwreck or battlefield. 
> They will also allow owners of designated assets to enter into management agreements that will eliminate the need for specific consent for works so long as the features that make the sites special and valuable are preserved and enhanced. The aim of the new system is to change the culture of protecting the historic environment from its generally passive, reactive and often adversarial form towards an approach that is positive, collaborative and strategic, while maintaining the present levels of statutory protection.
> To test the viability of these proposals, English Heritage will run fifteen pilot projects across the country. Sites chosen for the trial include Arnos Vale cemetery in Bristol, medieval water meadows at Eastleigh, in Hampshire, stations on London Underground’s Piccadilly Line, the Langdale neolithic landscape and flint axe works in Cumbria, and the 32-storey Centre Point tower in London. Our Fellow, Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said that: ‘We don't need to test [the new approach] on simple cases, we need to test it on the most complex cases we can find’, adding that one of the properties selected as a pilot project was the Holkham estate in Norfolk, owned by English Heritage Commissioner, Lord Leicester — Simon Thurley wryly predicted that he would certainly hear about it if the system did not work.
> He went on to say that: ‘The pilots ... are designed to demonstrate that the management of the historic environment must be a partnership between all those with an interest in its future. The new system is based on a shared understanding not just of what makes the grand estate, the office block or the archaeological site important enough to be listed but of how it needs to be managed. This is an aspect entirely lacking in the present system.’
> This could be good news - IF (and it's a big "if") - the thinking at the top filters down to the inspectors, advisers and officials who actually deal with things on a day-to-day basis. At the very least, we need to be aware of it so that when EH people take the authoritarian rule-book approach and start saying "you can't do this" we can now fight back by saying "that's not the language your bosses are talking. How does what you're saying fit with the new partnership approach with owners and users of historic buildings? Is this [bell/frame/beam/iron nail/1930s light bulb] the real feature that makes the building listed? If it isn't, then why can't we - as owners/users - make necessary improvements?

Chris P


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