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Heritage: Cultural Importance

Volume 660: debated on Thursday 23 May 2019

8. What assessment he has made of the cultural importance of heritage to towns and cities throughout the UK. (911073)

9. What assessment he has made of the cultural importance of heritage to towns and cities throughout the UK. (911074)

As set out in the Government’s heritage statement, heritage is an essential part of our cultural economy, cultural landscape and our country. Our heritage is globally renowned and world leading. The importance of heritage to towns and cities includes the creation of a better place to live in, work in, and visit.

Heritage will be a vital component part of town centres as they reinvent themselves, and the high street area in Lowestoft is now a heritage action zone. What steps are being taken to ensure that such good initiatives are nationally co-ordinated, so that we best promote the UK as a world heritage visitor destination?

The Government’s comprehensive plans for high streets are a nationally co-ordinated initiative that will help high streets to adapt to change, and promote our heritage. Some £42 million of funding from the Government and Historic England will create dozens of high street heritage action zones, including Lowestoft, and £3 million will come from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and £15 million from the Architectural Heritage Fund to support social enterprise. Lots of money is going to heritage, as it should do.

As it says in “As You Like It”:

“Time travels in diverse paces with diverse persons.”

Our cultural heritage is important. Banbury has a long cultural heritage, and I am delighted that the Government have pledged more than £60 million for the heritage high streets fund. How will we use local heritage to benefit our towns and cities?

The heritage high street fund will restore and adapt our high streets, drive consumer footfall, increase further investment, and generate greater pride in our high streets. By reviving older buildings that are in a state of neglect, we will ensure that high streets remain at the heart of our communities for years to come. That will help to bring about the regeneration of high streets and the communities they serve, including in my hon. Friend’s wonderful constituency of Banbury.

The stunning FOCUS Wales music festival highlighted the importance of music worldwide when it brought artists from across the globe to Wrexham for three days last week. It used our magnificent St Giles’ parish church, which is the resting place of Elihu Yale, who founded Yale College, and a superb venue. May I extend an invitation to the entire Front-Bench team to come next year and see what a superb venue Wrexham is?

The hon. Gentleman is very kind to issue such a generous invitation. I commend him for his support for his constituency and for that important event. The Government announced almost £500 million of funding between 2016 and 2020 for a diverse portfolio of music and arts education programmes. The rewards from that include support for the festival in Wrexham.

A big part of Newport’s heritage is the Chartist Rising, which happened 180 years ago this November. In Newport, we commemorate it every year. What more can we do in this place and nationally to recognise the Chartist movement’s critical role in shaping our democracy?

Historic events such as the Chartist Rising, and many others in communities around the country, are a part of what makes this country’s rich cultural tapestry so endearing and so rewarding to our society. I commend the hon. Lady for her support for that event. She will no doubt take many opportunities to continue to remind Members of it and attract attention that could indeed bring tourist footfall to the area.

Cleethorpes currently benefits from coastal communities funding to improve its many Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Will the Minister give an assurance that the Department’s various funding streams will continue to benefit our coastal communities?

We are certainly looking very carefully at our coastal communities, and my hon. Friend is absolutely right that we want to support them. They bring in tourist visitors, but we want to see their number increased. We will definitely take the point he makes under advisement.