The Heritage Alliance, a coalition of 200 heritage organisations in England, has today published its latest Heritage Manifesto, setting out five priorities for the next term of government.
The manifesto has been published to address public policy challenges. It cites sector specific challenges such as volunteering and visitor numbers, decreasing specialist skills, and a ‘national retrofit challenge’ to meet climate change priorities, alongside the cost of living and pandemic recovery.
The Heritage Alliance includes large organisations such as English Heritage and the National Trust, and small local organisations and specialist bodies.
Among the priorities is a call to reform the tax regime. The Manifesto said repairs are subject to 20% VAT, yet no VAT at all is charged on demolition or new build, which creates a “perverse incentive to demolish old buildings rather than repairing and reusing them”. It calls for a 0% equalisation of VAT for works to all buildings, tested through a pilot scheme to demonstrate impact.
Its Chief Executive Lizzie Glithero-West said the manifesto “sets out a number of practical areas in which any future administration can make a tangible difference and ensure we use and don’t lose our heritage. Support for heritage is an investment, not a bail-out. We strongly urge all parties to adopt these measures in their manifestos.”
The Heritage Manifesto 2023
1. Support community cohesion and put heritage at the heart of regeneration by:
Investing in and empowering councils and communities to protect and make the most of heritage locally. This should include support for targeted regeneration schemes, removing permitted development on demolition, incentivising reuse of historic buildings, and embedding culture-led regeneration and community ownership in future housing and community
2. Embed the historic environment in nature recovery and net zero strategies by:
Ensuring Environmental Land Management schemes provide robust long-term funding to land managers of at least £4.4bn a year (which includes delivering heritage outcomes on an equal footing), reforming Energy Performance Certificates, and bringing forward skills training, funding, standards, and advice in a National Retrofit Strategy.
3. Reform the tax regime to promote long-term sustainable growth by:
Equalising VAT on repair and maintenance with newbuild, simplifying and reducing the burden of business rates, and continuing support for the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme.
4. Harness cultural learning and skills at every age and help our workforce thrive by: Encouraging youth visits to heritage sites in the curriculum through subsidised entry, implementing cross-subsidised shared apprenticeship schemes, reforming the Apprenticeship Levy, and offering unsponsored and conservation skill-oriented visas for heritage.
5. Futureproof heritage institutions at both a national and a local level by:
Ensuring the adequate funding and continued stability of arms-length heritage bodies, protecting the 20% share of Lottery funding for the National Lottery Heritage Fund, supporting statutory Historic Environment Records with ringfenced investment in local authorities for heritage expertise, and supporting proposals for a National Centre for Archaeological Archives.
Dr Ingrid Samuel OBE, Chair of the Heritage Alliance and Heritage Director of the National Trust, said the manifesto “is the product of collaborative working and combined thinking between heritage organisations across the breadth of our sector. It presents a coherent and comprehensive overview of what matters most in supporting our heritage to thrive, benefitting both people and place. We urge all political parties to take note.”
Read the full Heritage Manifesto here.