HL Deb 20 May 1970 vol 310 cc1163-4WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they can make a statement on the Report of the Preservation Policy Group and, in particular, their recommendations on the finance of conservation.


The Preservation Policy Group was appointed in June, 1966, under my chairmanship, to consider what changes were desirable in current legal, financial and administrative arrangements for the preservation of buildings of historic and architectural interest. Much of the advice given by the Group has already been taken into account in the new system of control over listed buildings introduced by Part V of the Town and Country Planning Act 1968, and in various improvements in administrative practice. Our Report, which is now completed, deals principally with finance, but also reviews developments in preservations since 1966. In view of its interest, my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is arranging for it to be printed for publication in the summer. Copies will be available in the library of both Houses next week.

The Group recommend a substantial increase in the amount of grants made on the advice of the Historic Buildings Council for individual outstanding buildings and for "town schemes". We also propose an Exchequer grant for historic areas which are to be the subject of a new type of general conservation scheme prepared by local authorities. This grant would meet half any net annual loss incurred by the authority on an improved scheme.

The Government accept the Report. As a first step, the amount of grants which the Historic Buildings Council can recommend has been increased from £575,000 to £700,000 in the current financial year. At an early opportunity the Government will introduce legislation to enable the payment of the proposed new grant on general conservation schemes. It is impossible to forecast precisely how expenditure would run under these proposals, but my right honourable friend would regard a gradual increase up to a figure of £1½ million in 1973–74 as an acceptable rate.

In the meantime, I am to-day inviting the local authorities in Bath, Chester, Chichester and York to discuss with me the possibility of joining in carrying out pilot general conservation schemes in those cities which were the subject of the Four Towns Reports.

House adjourned, for the Whitsun Recess, at twenty-two minutes before eight o'clock.