The sixth annual report on local authority staff resources has been published recently by English Heritage, in partnership with the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO) and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC).

The research forms part of an Activity within the National Heritage Protection Plan aimed at understanding- and providing advice and other help- on this issue.For further information on this wider activity please see http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/protection/national-heritage-protection-plan/activities/2e2.

In the past year the number of archaeological specialists has fallen by 9.5% (a loss of 31 full time equivalent posts) and the number of conservation specialists has declined by 2.4% (a loss of 13 full time equivalent posts). This is a continuation of the downward trend that began in 2006 which has seen numbers fall by over 32%. The continued decline is of even greater concern as local workloads have increased.

You can find out more details in the full report, available from the English Heritage website http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/sixth-report-la-staff-resources/.

Why is the Advice so Important?

Local authorities play a vital role in protecting England’s heritage. They are responsible, through the planning system, for making decisions on how places change and how heritage is protected and developed as part of that process. When a local authority does not have access to that advice, or that advice is stretched, then decisions are made that put local heritage at risk, the planning process can be slowed down and decisions are taken without the full understanding of their implications.

Archaeological Advice

Archaeological advisors seek to ensure that local decision making reflects the need to protect and conserve local archaeological heritage and they promote a wider understanding of that local heritage through education and work with the local community. Archaeological advisors also play a leading role in the maintenance of local Historic Environment Records (HERs). HERs are maintained by local authorities and contain information on all aspects of the local historic environment which helps to inform the planning process.

Conservation Advice

Like the role of the archaeological advisor, the role of the historic buildings conservation advisor has a number of different elements to it. It has a vital role in supporting the planning process, advising when and how the historic built environment can be affected by proposed change and working with partners to ensure heritage interests are preserved whilst accommodating change.Without expert advice the capacity of the authority to work with developers and local people to shape proposals as they develop reduces. Expert advice can help shape proposals from the pre-application phase onwards, which supports a more efficient, quicker service. Not only is this not possible without sufficient expert advice, but it can also result in irreparable damage to local heritage.

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