Breaking News: Lancashire County Council table plans to slash heritage service

Update: We have also commented on plans to withdraw funding from museums.

RESCUE is very concerned at the proposal to withdraw funding for Lancashire’s museums which will lead to the inevitable closure of at least five of those museums. Lancashire’s museums currently hold and display collections that inform local populations of their personal heritage, engaging directly with local people in a way that the larger national museums cannot.

For example, the two textile museums help the local population understand the leading role that Lancashire played in the Industrial Revolution and how the impacts of that complex series of events have formed our way of life today.  Local museums help populations to understand their own environment and cultural heritage and the ways in which they have developed, contributing directly to much bigger issues such as social history, community heritage, diversity and sense of place, all of which lead to healthier and more integrated communities – something that is vital in todays’ complex world.

Museums are also an essential part of the experience that visitors take away after a visit to Lancashire.  At the last estimate Heritage Tourism contributed £26.4bn to the British economy ( /economic-impact-uk-heritage-tourism-economy) and Lancashire takes its share of this.  Closing the museums will be counterproductive to the long term economic vitality of the county and of the wider region.

RESCUE is also deeply concerned about the future of the archives and collections that the museums currently house and for which Lancashire has an ethical and legal responsibility (as implied in the National Planning Policy Framework as part of the commitment to ‘preservation by record’?  How can we be assured that existing archives will be safeguarded in the long term?  Equally, what provision will be made for the reception, curation and care of new archives generated by archaeological work undertaken under the terms of the National Planning Policy Framework (section 141)?

RESCUE urges Lancashire County Council to reconsider this decision on the grounds that the financial investment required to maintain these unique public assets is more than offset by the public good that they represent.  RESCUE is willing to offer support to Lancashire County Council in lobbying central government for the necessary funds to maintain the museums in line with George Osborne’s recent comment ‘

“One of the best investments we can make as a nation is in our extraordinary arts, museums, heritage, media and sport.”

Update: Rescue have written to the chairman of Lancashire County Council. The full text of our letter is below. 

I am writing to you as chairman of RESCUE – The British Archaeological Trust.  RESCUE is a non-political organisation which exists to support archaeology and archaeologists in Britain and abroad.  We receive no support from government and are entirely dependent on the contributions of our members to fund our work.  Details of our activities can be found on our website:

We are extremely concerned to note your current proposals to remove your Historic Environment Record (HER), and strongly object to this measure being implemented.

We are sure that you are aware and indeed proud of the fact that Lancashire has a very particular and important history, much of which can only be learned by careful examination of archaeological evidence. In many cases highly significant sites are unknown until they are assessed, exposed and recorded through the development process. This assessment cannot be done wholesale in advance, and must be carried out in detail, on an application-by-application basis, by the developer. The importance of the knowledge gained in shaping how we as a society continue to evolve and progress is widely recognised, and its value for education, tourism and the development of local business is embraced both by the public, and by the legislative powers. The HER is integral to this process and is intimately linked to the successful operation of current planning legislation and guidance.

The requirement for archaeological survey, excavation and protection measures is a central principle of the National Planning Policy Framework – which itself is the national expression of the UK Government’s commitment to the principles set out in the European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage, to which the UK is a signatory. The need for a Local Planning Authority to maintain and have access to a functioning HER as part of this process is clearly set out in the NPPF (paragraph 169). Your current proposals effectively indicate that Lancashire intends to proceed with a planning system which employs selective and subjective imposition of national principles and policies. This would leave the authority open to numerous challenges, ranging from grounds of non-compliance with national policy, to having the validity of individual application decisions queried and overturned.

We urge that you reconsider and abandon the proposal to remove your HER provision and to commit to maintaining a both fully resourced and nationally compliant HER, and an archaeological planning advisory service. In the absence of this commitment, we would be pleased to learn how you are proposing thatLancashire’s historic environment policy and practice on development control would operate in the future, how prospective developers would have access to the historic environment information they are required to examine (and you are required to provide), and how you propose to remain compliant with both national and European planning policy.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

We will be updating Twitter during the day as/when we receive further updates, using #lancshercuts. Follow us @rescue_news.

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