Heritage umbrella body to launch

Nearly 200 voluntary organisations are to join forces through a new umbrella body for the heritage sector.

Heritage Link, whose founders include The National Trust, the Civic Trust and the Ramblers' Association, has been set up to push the historic environment up the political agenda and to present a unified front on issues such as lobbying and funding.

The body, which launches in December, is an example of individual charities working in the same field pooling their weight behind a specialist umbrella body.

Chris Catling, director of Heritage Link, said: "Nobody likes giving up their power to an umbrella body since most want to lobby for things themselves but the politicians want to deal with one body.

"We're much more effective campaigning together as a sector. Heritage Link will facilitate the sector to speak with one voice."

The charity will receive a three-year grant from English Heritage, a non-departmental public body. The National Trust is paying Catling's salary for the first year and will provide volunteers to help run the heritage body until permanent staff are appointed.

Additional funding will come from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Heritage Lottery Fund. "It's government and non-government bodies joining forces to protect the historic environment," said Christine Grey, director of corporate communications at English Heritage.

Catling is working with 43 founding members and a further 150 smaller not-for-profit organisations have agreed to pay membership. Members will pay fees at a rate to be determined at the first AGM on 13 December.

The main aims of Heritage Link are to improve funding to the sector and strengthen legislation protecting the historic environment by forging relationships with related government departments.

The launch of Heritage Link comes in the wake of the government's State of the Historic Environment Report, the first ever national audit of all aspects of heritage, including listed buildings, ancient monuments and tourism and education. Baroness Blackstone will talk about the role of Heritage Link at the report's launch on Monday.

"Its fitting alongside what government does but it's really a voice for the non-government sector to raise common concerns," said Jason Tanner, head of media at the National Trust.

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