Dame Caroline Dinenage, Member of Parliament for Gosport, has raised the issue of heritage assets falling prey to the Ministry of Defence’s ‘managed decline’ policy with Culture Ministers on World Heritage Day. 

 Speaking in the House of Commons at Culture, Media, and Sport Oral Questions, Caroline, who is the Chair of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, registered her concern that, where they are part of the Defence Estate, heritage assets that are vital to our nation’s history are rotting away because, unlike with other heritage assets, there was no statutory duty to protect them.

Speaking to the Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries, Caroline asked: “When it comes to valuable heritage assets, I am really concerned about those housed in the grounds of our many military estates which are not bound by any of the obligations to maintain and care for them. In many cases, the Ministry of Defence and others are pursuing a policy of managed decline, which is allowing those valuable heritage assets to rot under our very noses.

“May I encourage the Minister—in fact, the Secretary of State—to speak with Ministers in the Ministry of Defence to challenge that policy and see what can be done to address it?

“I give her advance warning that I am keen to look at that as part of a Select Committee inquiry.”

In response, Julia Lopez, Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries, said: “I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important point. It is something that we support when an asset is in the community rather than on the existing military estate. I recently visited the battle of Britain bunker at RAF Uxbridge, where there has been an amazing partnership with the local council.

“She raised an issue specifically about MOD sites that are still in use, which we shall be very happy to look into for her.”

The Gosport constituency has a proud military heritage, which continues to this day with many historic buildings and forts housed within the grounds of the MOD Estate. Yet heritage assets on the Defence Estate in Gosport remain unprotected and vulnerable to the Ministry of Defence’s de facto policy of managed decline, as set out in 2012 in Written Evidence to the Defence Select Committee, and in their 2016 ‘A Better Defence Estate’ strategy paper.

It means that buildings, such as Forts Grange and Rowner inside the fence of HMS Sultan, are not properly maintained and permitted to decay to the point that they are unsafe and beyond repair.