25.4.19 Gorsedh Kernow: Response to Tailored Review of Historic England Terms of Reference.

The College of Bards of Gorsedh Kernow exists to promote and maintain the Celtic spirit and national identity of Cornwall. Our tangible and intangible heritage is a key factor in this identity. Gorsedh Kernow was invited to join the Heritage Kernow Board set up as part of the implementation of the 2015 Cornwall Devolution Deal. The Heritage Kernow Board, supported by an open forum, was tasked to undertake a Cornish distinctiveness study which is now at the point of completion.  

Gorsedh Kernow has pressed consistently via the Forum and through liaison with the leadership of Cornwall Council for devolution of the Cornish Heritage Estate, and heritage regulation to be vested in Cornwall Council. The reasons for this are that Cornwall’s heritage narrative is 

i. highly distinctive, 

ii. by dint of geography, self-contained, 

iii. for reasons associated with distinctive development patterns over the past 1000 years, of a significant scale and depth through the ages.

It is in the UK’s general interests for Cornwall to be incisively contributing to the reputation, brand and destination quality of Britain. To achieve this in terms of heritage management and regulation we strongly assert that devolved management is the best way to achieve this.  

We have observed the operation of both “English Heritage” and “Heritage England” in relation to Tintagel. We feel that HE has allowed EH to undertake a crude commercial exploitation which is distorting the narrative of the site away from the more important real history and story of Cornwall. It is affecting the depth and quality of the heritage assets, and risking damage through over-use. We also feel that the lack of adequate statutory safeguards for other designations which affect the Tintagel Site (e.g. SSSI, AONB) means that commercial pressures on EH, inadequately regulated by HE, is adding to a deterioration in quality and resilience of legally protected aspects of the site without their respective regulators having the power to exercise their responsibilities.

A devolution process would not only achieve a closer tie between cultural identity and heritage management, it would also trigger a much-needed review of how various designations should work together in the best interests of any particular site. There are many sites throughout Britain which are subject to multiple designations and all are vulnerable whilst the legal framework remains flawed by not making all regulators equal partners in management and strategy of complex protected sites. We have seen first hand the inequity and risk caused to protected assets, be they Scheduled Ancient Monuments, SSSI, or AONB, by the current disparities between different enabling Acts of Parliament. Reform is urgently needed.

We also feel that the recognition of the Cornish as a national minority (as per FCNM) means that the case for devolving management and regulation includes an attendant human rights dimension.

Elizabeth Carne Melennek

Bardh Meur Kernow / Grand Bard of Cornwall