New laws to protect cultural and historic heritage

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced new laws to protect England’s cultural and historic heritage, meaning that historic statues should be ‘retained and explained’ for future generations.

Under the new regulations, if the council intends to grant permission for removal of a particular statue and Historic England objects, the Communities Secretary will be notified so he can make the final decision about the application in question.

The announcement follows the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston last year in Bristol and a wider discussion on the removal of controversial monuments.

Under Jenrick’s measures, he and Historic England will apply a new policy of ‘retain and explain’, meaning historic statues will only be removed in the most exceptional circumstances. These new laws will protect 20,000 statues and monuments throughout England.

Jenrick said: “For hundreds of years, public statues and monuments have been erected across the country to celebrate individuals and great moments in British history. They reflected the people’s preferences at the time, not a single, official narrative or doctrine. They are hugely varied, some loved, some reviled, but all part of the weft and weave of our uniquely rich history and built environment.

“We cannot – and should not – now try to edit or censor our past. That’s why I am changing the law to protect historic monuments and ensure we don’t repeat the errors of previous generations, losing our inheritance of the past without proper care. What has stood for generations should be considered thoughtfully, not removed on a whim, any removal should require planning permission and local people should have the chance to be properly consulted. Our policy in law will be clear, that we believe in explaining and retaining heritage, not tearing it down.”