A Question Of Trust: Evaluating The Work Of Building Preservation Trusts
It has long been recognised, or at least since the report of the Gowers Committee in 1950, that heritage needs to be supported by the public purse. Unfortunately, not all of the recommendations of the committee, which included such radical ideas for the time as tax exemption for maintenance work, were endorsed by government. Instead of providing incentives undue emphasis was placed on grant aid. This resulted in heavy competition for very scarce resources, from an increasing variety of sources. Some of these sources are obvious, such as Historic Scotland and English Heritage, others are rather obscure and indirect such as farm diversification schemes.
This situation became even more complex with the advent of the Heritage Lottery Fund which judged applications not just on the merits and condition of the particular assets, but looked for wider benefits in terms of such issues as economic regeneration and education and which is now increasingly emphasising the need for community benefit and public value. Whilst those that work in the heritage sector realises that they have to be able to justify what they do there is general concern about the current ability to assess projects based on the above criteria and that available finance will be spread even more thinly or focussed in the wrong areas.
Building Preservation Trusts (BPTs), which have nationally put together a considerable body of work over the last thirty years, can be said to embrace most of these concerns as they struggle to finance what they do and can generally only operate with community support. This research involves analysing the work of BPTs to establish how successful they have been, to identify the factors that have contributed to this success and to begin to formulate performance indicators that may contribute to policy on the allocation of future resources.