IHBC Yearbook 2017

16 Y E A R B O O K 2 0 1 7 CHAIR’S REVIEW JAMES CAIRD, IHBC CHAIR In this column last year my predecessor, Mike Brown, considered the impact of declining resources for statutory heritage processes in local planning authorities. Despite considerable efforts in the heritage sector by many people, including the IHBC, the picture he painted has not improved. Into the mix we now have the considerable uncertainty posed by impending departure from the European Union. Nevertheless, the institute continues to grow in reputation and influence with its clear focus on professional standards in an increasingly fragmented heritage environment. I must begin my first review by thanking Mike Brown for his enormous contribution to the work of the IHBC as chair for the past three years and his continuing work in the Historic Environment Forum (now as vice president of the IHBC), where he chairs a Heritage 2020 working group. It is this commitment to collaborative working for the future of historic building conservation on which I wish to build. The uncertainties connected with the UK’s relationship with the EU have been the subject of considerable discussion but it would be wrong to become overly obsessed with them. Our secession from the union is many months, maybe years, away and will do no more than reaffirm the status quo in UK law. Subsequently there may be reform of our heritage legislation but this is unlikely to be a parliamentary priority. So the institute will, in collaboration with like-minded bodies in the heritage sector, be keeping an eye on developments and contributing to the debate. In the meantime there is much to do. The decline in public sector resources for heritage protection continues to be a matter of great regret on which we shall continue to express our views. But in parallel to this we must remember that our institute exists to promote, facilitate and accredit high professional standards in heritage management, design and implementation, and to promote the role of heritage in regeneration, place-making and sustainability. We must continue to serve the public by maintenance of our professional standards and we are constantly working to achieve this. But our work does require the participation of our membership, particularly those nearer qualification than retirement who will form our future governance. We have a considerable portfolio of professional development resources and events that we would like members to use and promote. Our website is a goldmine of resources for members to use in their daily work. Our CPD events are well received, especially our annual school which, with the AGM, also provides opportunities for members to get involved in the governance of the IHBC. The interim governance changes which we introduced following past president Trefor Thorpe’s 2015 review have shown us the benefits of wider participation and we need to consolidate and improve them. Active participation can also be gained through our network of branches and we have reinforced our resources to support them. Unlike many professional institutes we have no national head office to focus on and this allows us to be more supportive of regional work. Council+ is our forum for the wider engagement of members in our work. The first meetings have shown us the interest many members have in our work and is encouraging us to widen participation through our committees and panels. The increasing divergence of regulatory practice in the devolved administrations also needs to be acknowledged, and we must work on consolidating sound professional practice that applies everywhere. It was recently pointed out to me that as a professional institute in our discipline we may be unique. British built environment and environmental training and qualifications are valued throughout the world, not least in those countries with less well-developed environmental and regulatory systems. So the institute’s focus on the practice of historic building conservation may be a building block for the future in a perspective that is wider than the UK. That we manage what we do on such small resources is doubly pleasing. No little thanks is due to our national office and its dedicated team of staff, our many volunteers and the general membership who contribute so willingly to our work. These are challenging times and the opportunity to chair such a forward-looking organisation in a discipline that could all too easily become mired in the past is a great honour for which I thank you. James Caird, chair@ihbc.org.uk