Deputy Minister outlines first Wales-only plans to protect our past

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Ken Skates AM, the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism

Ken Skates AM, the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism

Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates, today outlined plans for the first Wales-only legislation to better protect and care for our historic environment, and pointed to some of the exciting and innovative ways this is already being done.

The Heritage Bill will be introduced to the Assembly this spring and will give more effective protection to scheduled monuments, including powers for the Welsh Government to halt harmful works and take effective action if a monument has been damaged or destroyed.

Speaking in the Senedd, the Deputy Minister said the proposals for the Bill were a response to far-reaching public engagement and consultation and would result in more transparent and accountable management of the historic environment, so that people will be able to appreciate and learn from it for generations to come.

The Deputy Minister said:

'If the historic environment is to continue to deliver its many benefits to Wales, it must be safeguarded for the long term. This Bill, the first of its kind specifically for Wales, will enable everyone who plays a role in caring for our heritage — from the Welsh Government, to local planning authorities, to the thousands of people who own, work or live in historic places — to look after those things that make Wales special.

'The fact there has only been one successful prosecution for unlawful damage to an ancient monument in Wales in the last 25 years, despite a number of significant cases, shows that this is an area that needs to be improved. We received a significant response from the public to our consultation, which reflects the importance of the historic environment to the people of Wales. We have listened to these views and I am pleased we are addressing many of these in our Bill proposals.'

The Heritage Bill also proposes to:

  • allow owners of listed buildings and scheduled monuments to negotiate partnership agreements with consenting authorities for a period of years, eliminating the need for repeated consent applications and encouraging more consistent, long-term management of the historic assets;
  • secure a more stable future for Wales’ historic environment records, which provide detailed information and advice on the historic environment to local planning authorities and the public; 
  • establish an independent panel to advise on historic environment policy and strategy at a national level in Wales.

During his statement, the Deputy Minister also identified the £19million EU-funded Heritage Tourism Project, which includes schemes like the Great Orme Copper mines, and the Castles from the Clouds project, as examples of how historic sites can be made relevant today, attract visitors and benefit the economy.

He also paid tribute to the many different organisations and individuals who help care for Wales’ historic environment and praised the Open Doors events in Wales in September 2014 where 343 properties across Wales, with almost 34,000 visitors, took advantage of over a thousand events.

The Deputy Minister said it was clear Wales’ historic environment was generating as much interest as ever, with many sites reporting a rise in visitors last year, a 14% increase in Cadw membership and a busy Easter with a 30.6% increase in visitors to Welsh Government-managed sites. However, if the historic environment is to continue to deliver its many benefits to Wales, it must be safeguarded for the long term.

The Deputy Minister added:

'We recognise that, while our historic environment needs to be protected, it cannot be frozen in time and must respond to the requirements of modern life. This Bill is about allowing the historic environment to meet these challenges without losing its special qualities. These messages will be reinforced by a range of guidance documents that are being produced to complement the Bill.

'From boosting the economy, through providing opportunities for learning, to making important contributions to regeneration, investment and renewed community confidence, our historic environment is something we must cherish.

'It belongs to all of us and I am proud that we are taking necessary action to better protect our past for the Wales of tomorrow.'

Links

Heritage Bill (Welsh Government website) 

Towards a Heritage Bill for Wales