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Government Historic Estates Unit

Volume 699: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many people are employed in the Government Historic Estates Unit; and what proportion of their working time is taken up by their responsibilities at the unit. [HL1697]

There are six full-time specialist staff in the unit, supported by a part-time administrative assistant, all based at English Heritage. All of their duties are connected with giving advice on the care of the Government's historic estate in England. As well as advising government departments, the unit gives site-specific casework advice to the Royal Household, Historic Royal Palaces and the Parliamentary Estates Directorate. The unit also gives policy advice on the management of their historic estates to several non-departmental public bodies and agencies including English Partnerships, Network Rail and British Waterways.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many cases the Government Historic Estates Unit took up with government departments and other public bodies in each of the past five years. [HL1698]

The Government Historic Estates Unit deals with a wide range of casework in relation to the government historic estate ranging from general inquiries about disposals and buildings at risk to statutory notifications in relation to development proposals. Although precise statistics are not available, a breakdown of the different types of work carried out by the unit is contained in its biennial report.

The last report, published in 2006, included a commentary on progress with disposals and referred to several cases on the MoD estate that were then current. These were HMS Daedalus (Hampshire), RAF Upper Heyford (Oxfordshire), RAF Bicester (Oxfordshire), RAF West Raynham (Norfolk), RAF Coltishall (Norfolk) and RAF Neatishead (Norfolk).The report also included two case studies of completed disposals—the Royal Army Medical College on Millbank and Shoebury Garrison in Essex.

The next report is due to be published in about three weeks' time. This will refer to more recent disposal cases on the MoD estate, including heritage buildings at Aldershot and Colchester garrisons. The report will also give an account of work that English Heritage and GHEU have been doing on the assessment of the redundant NHS hospital sites, in partnership with English Partnerships. I will arrange for copies of the 2008 report to be placed in the House Libraries on publication.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much capacity the Government Historic Estates Unit has to provide advice to local authorities in relation to individual cases of vacant or dilapidated historic properties in the authorities' ownership. [HL1699]

The Government Historic Estates Unit (GHEU), which was established in its current form in 1996, provides a central source of advice to government departments and agencies regarding their historic estates in England. The unit's role is explained in further detail in the Biennial Conservation Report on the Government's Historic Estate, published by English Heritage. The unit itself does not provide casework advice in relation to local government historic estates.

English Heritage is consulted about all applications for listed building consent where the building is in local authority ownership. In addition, through the HELM (Historic Environment—Local Management) project led by English Heritage, it also engages with local government to provide guidance and training on managing and protecting the local historic environment. The HELM website ( features case studies, guidance documents and policy statements produced by English Heritage, as well as further publications produced by local authorities, regional agencies and other key organisations.