Heritage Key to Local Economies and Economic Resiliance

This year’s Heritage Counts report prepared by English Heritage on behalf of the heritage sector, shows that investing in heritage doesn’t just make us feel better, it makes sound economic sense, especially at the local level. The report reveals that:

  • over a 10 year period, every £1 invested in historic attractions generates £1.70 in additional economic activity and every £1 invested in historic environment generates £1.60
  • investments in 72 historic visitor attractions have created 3,600 jobs and safeguarded a further 6,900. On average each site has generated almost £3 million of additional expenditure in regional economies
  • half of all jobs created by heritage tourism are in local businesses
  • 24.8 million adults in England visited 2 heritage site in 2009, one million more than in 2008
  • membership of heritage organisations are at a record high, with 3.76m National Trust members, 988,000 English Heritage members and 31,100 Historic Houses Association Friends. Together these organisations represent at least 7% of England’s population are members of heritage organisations, more than the total membership of the UK political parties.

The ninth annual Heritage Counts survey reveals heritage plays a distinct and important role in the English economy. Visit Britian research identified heritage is a key driver of tourism, the UK’s third largest export industry and a direct employer of 1.36 million people, rising to 2.6 million when the indirect impact of tourism is taken into account. A  third of international visitors cite our historic attractions as the main factor in chosing to come to the UK and more than half of international tourists visit a built heritage site on their visit.  Investments in 72 historic visitor attractions have created 3,600 jobs, safeguarded a further 6,900, while generating an additional £190.9 million of expenditure in regional economies.

Heritage benefits local economies in at least two main ways: by attracting tourist visitors, and by providing distinctive and attractive locations for businesses, visitors and residents alike. 

New research commissioned by English Heritage and National Trust looked at the economic impact of investments totalling £23.4 million at five heritage tourist attractions across the country – Anglesey Abbey, Dover Castle, Down House, Kenilworth Castle and Tyntesfield.  Investment in these properties provided local economic benefits beyond direct employment at sites: half of all the jobs generated by the attractions studied were in the wider community, such as in local bars and restaurants, hotels and shops. In fact,  every £1 invested generates an additional £1.70 over ten years for the local economy .

Investment in the local historic environment also supports the economic performance of cities, towns and villiages by significantly improving their appeal as destinations, attracting new businesses and residents, encouraging people to spend more locally and enhancing perceptions of areas. Detailed research shows historic environment regeneration creates a lasting impact on the local economy, generating £1.60 in additional economic activity for every £1 invested over a ten year period. Investment in the historic environment also improves the quality of life for local people. 93% of people agreed that the historic environment improved the perception of their local area and 92% agreed that it raised pride in their local area. Heritage investment is effective in a variety of contexts. Invetsments can be in a Victorian market, a 20th century factory, a Tudor house, the re-design of shop fronts or the improvement of public squares. It can be an investment of a few thousand pounds or millions.

Joint VisitBritain and English Heritage research also shows the nation’s appetite for heritage has never been greater with 51.2 million visits to historic sites in England taking place in 2009, with the final figure likely to be higher. Almost a million more people living in England visited two or more heritage sites than in the previous year, with the total number visting heritage sites in the last year to 35 million. Visitor figures rose across the sector. For example in 2009 there were 15% more visitors to the Historic Royal Palaces and  11% more to the Royal Naval College than in 2008. Membership of English Heritage and National Trust rose 5% between 2008/09 -2009/10 whilst the Historic Houses Association had a 15% rise in membership.

Baroness Andrews, Chair of English Heritage, said: “These results show heritage is one of the biggest drivers of tourism in the UK, it helps to attract new businesses and residents to an area and contributes to economic growth locally and nationally. Investing in heritage is not a luxury. It makes sound economic sense. The heritage sector provides a life-line for the nation’s past. Heritage is the very thing that makes England special in the eyes of the world and can help to underpin the economic recovery.  ”

The historic environment has been successful in delivering these wider social and economic goals because all parties involved in the historic environment – private owners, the voluntary sector, lottery distributors, central and local government have worked together.  However all these partners are facing a difficult future. Central and local government funding for the historic environment is likely to be cut by at least 25%, with the impact of cuts already been seen in the number of local authority historic enviornment staff which fell by 11% between 2006 and 2008. The backlog of repairs at private visitor attractions continues to rise against increasing costs of conservation and compliance (Historic Houses Assoication members estimate the backlog of repair at their houses exceed £390 million) and voluntary sector organisations are finding it difficult to raise the match funding needed for successful project bids. Developers who usually invest in the historic environment are also struggling to raise capital with private sector lending in the first thee months of 2010 down 40% on 2009. All of these factors are likely to impact on the levels of heritage at risk. The conservation deficit—the difference between the cost of repair and end value for buildings at risk in 2010 is £465 million, 10% more  than 2009, and is likely to increase in future years.

Baroness Andrews continued; “Heritage Counts proves the value of investing in heritage. But across the public, private and voluntary sectors it will be a challenge to continue to invest, at the very time when we need it most. We must make sure that public funds for heritage are not cut disproportionately and that we work together to find creative ways to get the maximum value from public, private and voluntary resources. Our heritage needs us now more than ever. ”

Other key facts revealed by Heritage Counts this year are:

  • one in four businesses agree that a heritage setting is an important factor in their decision on where to locate and is as important as road access
  • 91% of people surveyed agreed that the historic environment was an important factor in deciding where to visit, 74% where to live and 68% where to work
  • 92% of respondents indicated they felt heritage projects raised pride in the local area and 93% that they created a distinct sense of place
  • investments shows investments in the historic environment can offer returns, in terms of economic activity generated, equal to or even higher than public sector types of investment

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