There are heritage assets in every local area, ranging from historic, often listed buildings to battlefields. While many of these are owned by well established, national organisations (such as English Heritage and the National Trust) or by small, local charitable trusts set up to look after a single building or place, many are held by local authorities.
In these times of constrained budgets, with a need to focus on core services and the delivery of statutory functions, many councils will be looking at how their heritage assets can best be managed both day to day and for the long term.
Old buildings are often costly to repair and if left empty will quickly fall into a state of neglect. And yet they can be at the heart of a local community and important to the sense of place and quality of the wider environment. Local action groups and community organisations will often have the passion for raising funds and the enthusiasm to bring together groups of willing volunteers to work to maintain and promote these historic assets, for the continued enjoyment by the local community and the benefit of the locality's social and economic development.
The transfer of ownership and ongoing responsibility for historic assets, from local councils to community organisations, is not to be undertaken without considerable care. So recently published guidance by English Heritage is to be welcomed. It sets out a number of considerations for local authorities and includes check lists, tips andcase studies for taking stock of heritage assets and formulating transfer strategies. There is also guidance for community organisations.
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