English heritage sites 'thriving'

Image caption,
Charles Darwin developed his revolutionary theory of evolution at Down House

Heritage sites in England are thriving, with a million more adults visiting two locations last year compared with 2008, an English Heritage report says.

It found membership of groups such as the National Trust was at a record high, and historic buildings remained a major draw for foreign tourists.

The annual report also said every £1 invested in the sector generated £1.70 for the local economy over 10 years.

Heritage bodies fear a 25% funding cut in next Wednesday's Spending Review.

The ninth annual report, produced on behalf of the whole sector, looked at five historic sites: Dover Castle in Kent; Down House in Bromley, London; Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire; Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire; and Tyntesfield in Somerset.

'Economic sense'

Pumping money into the historic environment of an area, such as public squares or old markets, can generate an extra £1.60 for every £1 invested locally, the report said.

It said investments over five years in 72 historic visitor attractions created 3,600 jobs and safeguarded 6,900 more, with each site generating almost £3m of additional expenditure.

The survey also found more than half of all foreign tourists visit a built heritage site during their trip, and a third say the attractions are the main reason for coming to the UK.

In total, 24.8 million adults visited two sites in England last year - up by more than a million in 2008.

English Heritage chairwoman, Baroness Andrews, said investing in the past made economic sense.

"Heritage is the very thing that makes England special in the eyes of the world and can help to underpin the economic recovery," she said.

"We must make sure that public funds for heritage are not cut disproportionately and that we work together to find creative ways to get the maximum value from public, private and voluntary resources.

"Our heritage needs us now more than ever."

The report also found membership of heritage groups were the highest they had ever been.

English Heritage numbers rose 15,000 last year to 998,000 - a rise of 4% compared to the year before, and National Heritage from 3.6 to 3.8 million over the same period - a jump of 5%.

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