New hope for historic sites

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YORKSHIRE MAY be undergoing a boom in tourism, but if visitors arrive from across the world only to find that the attractions are not in a fit state of repair, not many of them will be hurrying to book a second trip.

This is why it is essential that the so-called “conservation deficit” at some of the region’s most cherished historical sites is addressed as soon as possible following decades of under-spending by central government, which have left attractions such as Rievaulx Abbey, in North Yorkshire, in a state of distinctly crumbling beauty.

Fortunately for the region, however, there is a scheme in place which is aimed precisely at addressing this very problem. Yorkshire has been earmarked for a £1.7m refurbishment project as part of a new business plan which will see English Heritage split into two bodies – the National Heritage Collection and Historic England – with the former receiving £80m for the safeguarding and improvement of historic properties.

Past reliance on the vagaries of Whitehall spending has left our heritage at the mercy of bureaucrats whose only concern is the bottom line. Now, in contrast, the new set-up will liberate such national treasures as Rievaulx from the dead hand of the state and place their future in the hands of those who love them.

Although sites will remain in public ownership, their upkeep will be principally down to the charitable giving of the public themselves and 
the enthusiasm of an 
army of volunteers with Yorkshire already leading the way in terms of recruitment.

This is, of course, a brave new future for these relics of the past which carries no guarantees. But previous experience suggests that the country’s love for its heritage is more than sufficient for the days of neglect to be truly over.

Evans’s future

Club sends out wrong message

WHEN CHED Evans was sentenced for rape two years ago, he was told by Judge Merfyn Hughes that he had thrown away a successful football career.

Yet it now appears that Mr Hughes was wrong. Evans’s former employer, Sheffield United, persistently refuses to make any comment on his future, suggesting that, as far as the club is concerned, his career is far from over. Nor is it over in the eyes of those Sheffield United supporters who disgrace themselves on a regular basis by chanting songs which celebrate Evans and the appalling crime he committed.

To the Football Association’s credit, it has now said that such behaviour is unacceptable and that any club signing Evans would be expected to take action to prevent it.

But what of Evans himself, who remains on probation until 2017, but who steadfastly refuses to accept that there is anything wrong in having sex with a woman who was too drunk to consent? And what of the club, whose shameful silence on the subject speaks louder than any amount of words?

No one denies that, like all ex-offenders, Evans has the right to work again. But questions must be asked as to how he can be properly rehabilitated when he refuses to admit his crime.

And when Sheffield United refuses to make any clear statement condemning rape and sexual violence, or indeed say anything critical of Evans’s behaviour, what message does that send out to the club’s female staff and its many female fans?

This is a matter on which the club should be taking a lead and it could start by admitting that there is a clear difference between giving a job to a reformed criminal and employing a rapist who refuses to accept that he has done anything wrong.

No ifs or butts

Smoking ban must be enforced

THE PROPOSED ban on smoking in parks and public places across London has provoked predictable cries of “Nanny state!” from libertarians everywhere, while the Prime Minister has insisted that there are no plans for the rest of Britain to follow suit.

Most people would surely admit, however, that such a ban – if properly enforced – would make life more pleasant: no more walking through clouds of smoke, no bad examples set for young children and a further incentive for smokers

to quit.

The enforcement question, however, is paramount. As with the suggestion that smoking be banned in cars, there is little point in introducing such a law unless it is going to be properly policed and offenders punished.

A law to promote public health is all very well, but if its practicalities are not properly addressed, all it will achieve is to make policymakers feel good about themselves.