The Government has announced that it will work with English Heritage to consult on establishing a charity to care for the historic properties in the National Heritage Collection on a self-financing basis, supported by Government investment of £80 million.
English Heritage will be awarded this one-off lump sum to invest in the National Heritage Collection of 420 historic sites, monuments and collections in its care. This will support its plan to transfer management of the Collection to a charity, licensed by English Heritage's governing body, The Commission. This investment in historic properties across the entire country will create jobs and boost local economies.
The National Heritage Collection, which includes Stonehenge, Kenwood, Audley End, Dover Castle and Charles Darwin's home Down House in Kent, will remain in public ownership. However, the new charity will have more freedom to generate greater commercial and philanthropic income to safeguard and present to the public what is arguably England's most vulnerable and important collection of cultural treasures.
Under current plans, the new charity will be set up by March 2015. It will retain the name English Heritage and in due course, will be completely self-financing and no longer need tax-payer support.
The new arrangement will also greatly benefit English Heritage's planning and heritage protection responsibilities, which will be known as the National Heritage Protection Service - until a friendlier title is chosen. This will continue to use its statutory powers, advice, research and awareness-raising to protect England's heritage at large - the very stuff of our historic streets, villages, towns, cities, our ancient archaeological remains and even the heritage beneath our coastal waters.
The National Heritage Protection Service will continue to be the Government's expert on all aspects of England's archaeological and built heritage and factors affecting them. It will continue to protect England's heritage and to take a leading part in identifying those parts of England's heritage that matter to people most and are at greatest risk - and to concentrate efforts on saving them. At the same time, it will become more public-facing and enhance its service to owners, developers and the public, ensuring that our heritage across the country is understood, valued, cared for and enjoyed.
Commission, the current governing body appointed by DCMS, will run the National Heritage Protection Service and will licence the English Heritage charity to run the National Heritage Collection.
Public consultation will begin shortly and in due course, recruitment of a Chairman and trustees for the charitable trust will commence.
Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "The new £80 million investment for English Heritage is fantastic news and recognises the vital importance of the historic environment to our national life. This extra money will enable some of our most beautiful properties to be preserved and enable English Heritage to grow their income into an independent and sustainable source of funding.
"Charitable status will give English Heritage the dual freedom to grow, develop and raise funds for the National Heritage Collection of historic sites, whilst allowing The National Heritage Protection Service to concentrate on providing impartial, expert advice. This new structure will offer a bright future for our wonderful historical environment, and a great deal for the taxpayer; keeping the properties themselves in public ownership and managing them under a licence to ensure their historic integrity is preserved."
Welcoming the announcement today, English Heritage said: "This is an excellent outcome to an extremely challenging Spending Review. This year we have been celebrating 100 years of state protection for heritage and today's announcement sets the scene for the next century.
"The Government's £80m investment and the creation of the new charity will help us preserve the National Heritage Collection for the future, be true to the story of the places we look after, to aim for the highest standards in everything we do from our conservation work to the way we run our events and to provide an experience that brings the story of England alive.
"The National Heritage Protection Service will continue to work for the survival of England's historic environment as a constant source of beauty, intellectual and emotional stimulation and pleasure, a reminder of ancestral struggle and achievement. Our heritage is what makes England uniquely appealing to tourists and businesses and our job will be to make sure it continues to contribute to economic growth, to sustainability, and that it gives a sense of place and meaning as the backdrop to all our lives."