Thursday, 21 July 2011

News - Push to preserve Notts' heritage

A WARNING has been made that essential knowledge about some of Notts' oldest buildings could be lost under council cuts.

The concern comes from within Notts County Council itself, as the authority tries to save money by cutting staff in its conservation team.

The team is to be reduced from just under 34 full-time post to six, following budget cuts agreed earlier this year.

But there are fears that the loss of expertise will mean some old buildings and memorials will be forgotten.

At a meeting of the council's communities and the environment committee, chairman councillor Sue Saddington said: "If our heritage falls through the net it will be lost forever."

The committee has been looking at how to cope with the cuts and will make recommendations in September. Some of the suggestions include:

Updating the council's register of heritage buildings in Notts at risk, which was created in 2004 – but it could take up to five years to complete a new version.

Considering how best to continue to apply for heritage funding towards the upkeep of structures – the council has received over £5 million from different bodies in recent years towards preserving assets.

Start charging district councils for background information supplied for planning applications, in order to raise money for the council's conservation and heritage department. The service is currently free of charge.

On the last of these, Ms Saddington added: "In order for us to preserve what we have in our department it could be an advantage that district councils pay for the service."

But Councillor Mike Quigley said: "If we are really convinced that conservation and heritage are important then we need to have a strategy in place into the future."

And vice-chairman Councillor Geoff Merry said: "The most important thing that we have got to do is look at the knowledge of staff that we need to keep.

"That information and knowledge needs to be there for others to pick up."

The review has seen the committee visit a number of the 400-plus historic sites owned by the county council in recent months, including Rufford Abbey and King John's Palace, in King's Clipstone.

After the review findings are finalised at the committee's next meeting in September, recommendations will be presented to the county council's Cabinet for discussion.

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