Blue plaques will remain . . . but not paid for by English Heritage
Blue plaques will remain a part of historic towns and cities across the West despite English Heritage’s decision to stop its own scheme.
The national organisation funds the familiar circular plaques only on buildings in London.
In the West, charities, trusts and organisations provide and put up their own.
The plaques are a common sight in places like Bristol, Bath, Bradford on Avon, Cheltenham and Devizes in Wiltshire, where local volunteers formed The Trust for Devizes to campaign for the enhancement of the town.
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They have placed more than 30 on buildings there, commemorating important or significant places or people.
“We don’t have any plans at the moment for any more, but we were left a legacy to ensure that we maintain and replace them, and can put up more if it’s appropriate,” said Ted East, the trust’s chairman. “The blue plaques will continue to be supplied by the trust and this doesn’t affect us at all.”
English Heritage is responsible for 869 plaques across London, but the organisation said 34 per cent budget cuts meant it was ‘impossible’ to continue. No more will be approved until new sources of finance have been found by 2015.
The only other times installations halted in almost 150 years were from 1915 to 1919 and 1940 to 1947.
A spokeswoman for English Heritage said: “Following our 34% funding cut in the 2010 spending settlement, English Heritage commissioners made the decision that the Blue Plaques scheme was to be funded in an alternative way in the future.
“As a step towards creating a new and more self-sustaining scheme, the Blue Plaques team will be reduced to two people during 2013.
“They will continue to erect plaques already agreed by the independent advisory panel and work up the details of a new approach to running the scheme that will be announced in 2014.
“English Heritage remains committed to the Blue Plaques scheme that has done so much to inspire Londoners and visitors with the history of the capital and its inhabitants.”
Funding for the plaques – which cost an average of £965 to install – will drop from £130 million in 2010-11 to £92 million in 2014.
English Heritage said its decision to reduce staff and suspend new installations would allow it to make savings of £240,000 over the next two years.
Possible sources of finance after 2014 could come from private investment or other heritage foundations, the spokeswoman said.
New applicants are now being made aware of the decision.
A plaque to be unveiled next week in Great Russell Street for architect John Nash is expected to be among the last.
The Blue Plaques were originally set up under the Royal Society of Arts and have been run by English Heritage since 1986.