21 March 2016

Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016

Today is an historic moment in the history of UK heritage legislation. After years of consultation, debate and political manoeuvering, the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill today received Royal assent and so has become law.

This picture - taken from the Twitter feed of Deputy Culture Minister Ken Skates - shows some of the people whose hard work has resulted in this important piece of legislation.

Photograph from @WG_CultureMin on Twitter. Copyright probably Welsh Government.

As a relative newcomer to the historic environment scene in Wales, I have found the process of preparing the bill and consulting on it to be refreshingly open and honest. Many of us have had more than one opportunity to comment in detail about the provisions in the legislation. I would have preferred stronger mechanisms to deal with damage to Scheduled Monuments, but - given the complex political circumstances, and the fact that the Act seeks to modify existing legislation - the Act is to be welcomed.

The full text of the Act can be found on the 'legislation.gov.uk' website; and more detail about the process of the creation of the Bill, some of the background and key changes are available on the Welsh Government website.

For me the Act brings about two main improvements.

Firstly - for the first time in the UK, and almost certainly the world - it is a statutory duty for Welsh Ministers to maintain an Historic Environment Record (HER). Placing the duty on Welsh Ministers rather than local authorities (as was originally intended) gives greater solidity to the present system in Wales, and is certainly a much better position than the rest of the UK

Secondly the powers of Welsh Ministers - exercised through Cadw and to some extent sometimes discharged through the Welsh Archaeological Trusts - to stop unauthorised works to Scheduled Monuments, and to compel owners to rectify the damage (as well as enabling access without permission) have been increased. Whilst the full 'defence of ignorance' which was a feature of the 1979 Act has not been eliminated entirely, the new Welsh Act certainly makes it more difficult.

It will be interesting to see how the divergence between English and Welsh systems which this Act represents will actually manifest itself on the ground on monuments that are both in England and Wales - such as Offa's Dyke, for example.

It is of course early days. Some provisions of the Act won't come into force for a while, and much of the underlying regulations and guidance are still in preparation. Nevertheless this is a positive piece of legislation which reinforces the role of the Welsh Archaeological Trusts, and places the historic environment in an important position in Welsh cultural life.

No comments:


accessibility aerial-cam aircraft Albany ALGAO antiquaries apley archaeology architecture art art nouveau Australia baltic Belgium beverley Birmingham black country Black Country Living Museum blast furnace blog borders Brexit broseley buildings cadw cambridgeshire canals cars castles charities chartership chief executive children chuches CIfA cinema coalbrookdale colonial community conferences conflict conservation contexts CPAT cracow crash cultural heritage culture cumbria cycling dark heritage dark tourism Darwin dawley devolution DGUF dialogue Dunsborough EAA earthworks england english heritage estonia EU Europe evolution excavation family family history fields fieldwalking food friends funding furnaces gardens geography geology geophysics Germany governance Habsburg heritage heritage management hertfordshire hinkshay historic environment historical metallurgy society history holiday hotel housing hull IfA india industrial heritage industry instability interdisciplinary iran iraq iron iron age iron rolling ironbridge ironworking jackfield jewish heritage Kakadu landscape landslide latvia lecture legislation linguistics Lithuania local history london manor house marylebone metallurgy middle east mill mining moat monograph moss museums national identity Netherlands Newcomen Nexus Northern Territory painting pakistan Perth planning poland politics of heritage post-colonial pottery preservation professionalism publication railways rambling religion report riga road rock art romania romans ruin salaries sandwell sardines scheduling schools scotland settlements severn shakespeare ships shropshire snow soviet stirchley stirchley furnaces stirchley ironworks stirchley slagworks stratigraphy survey Switzerland syria tallinn teaching telford tenements terrorism theatre timber-framed towns trains transport trustees turkey UK Vilnius volunteers wales west bromwich Western Australia wooden road wrexham wrexham and shropshire wroxeter yorkshire