Last week’s reshuffle has seen a bevy of new ministers, including a new secretary of state at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport who have overall responsibility for historic buildings. The new minister is Nadine Dorries, who was promoted from her position as a junior minister at the Department of Health and Social Care.
Dorries is an unexpected choice for the role, with no particular connection to any part of the brief. Her professional background is as an entrepreneur in medical and childcare sectors, which was a much more natural fit at DHSC.
Perhaps her most important qualification for the role is being a close ally of the prime minister. In a time when both heritage and media have become heavily politicised, Boris Johnson may well want someone who is loyal to him personally at DCMS, replacing Oliver Dowden who was promoted to Chairman of the party.
While the notional responsibility for historic buildings sits with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the planning system which determines so much about listed buildings belongs to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Last week’s reshuffle saw this important post unexpectedly taken over by Michael Gove.
The arrival of such a high profile figure to head MHCLG just as a major piece of legislation is due to be published cannot be a coincidence. Gove himself also has a history of leading major changes within any department he heads, which further signals some significant shifts in policy are likely to arrive in the near future.
While we suspect that his major focus will be placed on local government reform, rather than the planning bill, this will still have major impacts on listed buildings. Council planning departments are a critical part of the system, so changes in structure or resourcing could have significant knock on effects for owners.
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