£80m is not enough for English Heritage plans, say 'significant number' of consultation respondents

But the government says its proposal to turn part of the organisation into a charity is 'ambitious but achievable'

Stonehenge, managed by English Heritage
Stonehenge, managed by English Heritage

A "significant number" of respondents to the government’s consultation on its plans to turn part of English Heritage into a charity questioned whether a grant of £80m would be enough for the task, new documents show.

The government announced last year that it planned to turn part of English Heritage into a charity of the same name in April 2015 and give it an eight-year licence to manage the National Heritage Collection.

English Heritage will receive an £80m grant to make improvements to the collection – which includes Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall and more than 400 other historic sites and monuments – with the aim of the charity being self-sufficient by 2023.

The arm of the organisation responsible for planning and heritage protection will stay within government and will be known as Historic England.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport ran a consultation on the plans, which received around 600 responses and closed in February. The government’s response to this consultation was published on Monday and confirms that it will proceed with plans to create the charity. An additional £8.5m will be made available to set up the new charity and Historic England.

The response document, which summarises the contributions to the consultation and gives the government’s answer, says: "A significant number of respondents, including a number with experience of running heritage attractions, questioned whether the additional £80m was sufficient in size to allow English Heritage to tackle all priority repairs and to support the organisation in delivering the capital investment programme needed to deliver self-sufficiency."

It says that a significant number of respondents also "stressed the difficulty in setting long-term targets for visitors and members and earned income and suggested that various factors – including those outside of the control of the charity – could impact on these targets".

A number of respondents said the visitor and member targets, and the earned income levels, were ambitious, the document says. The government’s response to the consultation says the targets set out in the business case are "ambitious but achievable".

It says: "For example, the number of paying visitors is assumed to remain constant and the projected growth in visitor numbers does not make any allowance for the overall projected growth in population. Most of the growth results from the increase in membership.

"The summary business plan for the charity sets out the reasoning behind English Heritage’s growth assumptions. Government has tested these assumptions as part of its scrutiny of the business case and agrees with English Heritage that they are ambitious but achievable."

The government response also rejects fears that English Heritage could take away philanthropic funding from other heritage sector organisations. The document says the government does not believe the scale of the increase in fundraising is sufficient to justify these fears.

"In addition, government believes there is scope to grow both the overall amount of philanthropic funding for culture and the proportion of this going to heritage," it says. "Currently, fewer than 50 per cent of the population give philanthropically and of that only around 3 per cent comes to culture and heritage. This leaves significant scope for the charity to grow its share of philanthropy without damaging other organisations."

The document confirms that English Heritage will be given an eight-year contract from 2015 to manage the heritage collection, which will be reviewed in 2019/20. It says the government expects the review in 2019/20 to include a public consultation.

Sir Laurie Magnus, chair of English Heritage, said: "We are delighted that the government has confirmed these plans. The government’s investment and commitment will provide firm foundations for the future success of both new organisations. The new English Heritage charity will carry out urgent conservation repairs to the National Heritage Collection and provide a better experience for visitors to those places where history happened."

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