Historic England will take on policy, advisory and research work while a new charity, retaining the name English Heritage will be responsible for managing the more than 400 sites forming the National Heritage Collection, including Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall, Dover Castle and Charles Darwin’s home Down House in Kent. The properties will remain in public ownership.
The latter will receive an £80m cash injection in order to catch up on a decades-long backlog of urgent repairs, but aims to be self-funding by 2022. The government has committed to providing funding of around £85m a year for Historic England until 2016, but funding arrangements beyond this date are unclear.
Both organisations will report to the Commission, which is appointed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which currently overseas the work of English Heritage.
Sir Laurie Magnus, chair of English Heritage, said the new body managing the historic sites would be able to make “the most of commercial and philanthropic opportunities”, while the additional government investment would “deal with urgent conservation defects and enable the upgrading of visitor facilities including the renewal of outdated displays”.
In an open letter on the restructure, he added: “This will provide a better experience for visitors which will increase visitor numbers and grow membership”.
Furthermore, said Ed Vaisey, heritage minister, in a statement: “the taxpayer will benefit as the need for direct government funding for the heritage collection reduces over time”.
Plans for the split were announced in the 2013 spending round in June of that year. An initial consultation received around 600 replies, with some questioning the ability of English Heritage to become financially self-sufficient in the timescale, as well as what would happen to properties that were not financially viable.
The Institute for Archaeologists bemoaned “the absence of any contingency planning”, while shadow culture minister Helen Goodman has queried whether Historic England would be adequately resourced.
Recent criticism has raised concerns about the possible loss of grants for external research work.