Future of English Heritage

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:20 pm on 2nd April 2014.

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Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) 3:20 pm, 2nd April 2014

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. That is one of the anxieties that I will come to in a moment.

English Heritage also looks after many other small sites of vital importance in the north-east, which has 1,383 scheduled monuments, 1,235 listed buildings, 287 conservation areas, 53 registered parks and gardens and six historic battlefields. The north-east region was also an early centre of the conversion to Christianity and an important seat of learning connected with historic scholars such as St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede; all that led to the magnificent Durham cathedral in my constituency, which is regularly voted the country’s favourite building. More recently, the region has been celebrated for its industrial heritage as well. It was the birthplace of the modern railway and home to numerous collieries, shipyards, lead mines and metal works. Protecting that heritage is vital to understanding modern Britain.

The region has two world heritage sites, one of which—Durham castle and cathedral—is in my constituency. Durham cathedral is particularly significant because of its exceptional architecture, such as its demonstration of architectural innovation, and the relics and material culture of the three saints buried at the site, Cuthbert, Bede and Oswald. I could go into its many other points as well. Critically, the whole of the centre of Durham is a conservation area in order to preserve and protect the area around such an important historical site.

I agree with the Minister that there is a strong role for local authorities in protecting the quality of our built and historic environment and in deciding what goes into the buffer zone surrounding world heritage sites or ends up in conservation areas. That role for local authorities, however, has been supported and strengthened over the years by advice from English Heritage.