Chester’s MP, Chris Matheson, has once again called on the Government to help fund the protection and upkeep of Chester’s historic walls.
last year, in a letter to the Chancellor ahead of the autumn budget, Chris revealed his plans to ask the Government for extra funding, ring-fenced around the upkeep of the walls.
Currently, the upkeep of the Chester walls is paid by Cheshire West and Chester Council, and they have to use the highways budget to do so. With the walls being a historic heritage site, they need specialist contractors when carrying out any work, this of course comes at an extra cost. Yet, last year, the highways funding allocation from the government to Cheshire West and Chester Council was cut by 22%.
In the House of Commons, Chris once again raised this issue during questions to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.
“One of the biggest drivers of tourism in my area is the city walls—the only complete set of city walls in the UK—but the local authority has to spend money from the highways budget on their upkeep. Does the Minister agree with me that such major heritage and tourism assets should be funded centrally, because they are national and, indeed, international treasures?”
In response to the question, Nigel Huddleston, Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Civil society, said he would be happy to meet Chris to discuss his proposals for the walls.
“The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We do invest quite heavily in heritage, particularly with the culture recovery programme, and of course there is ongoing investment in heritage through the national lottery heritage schemes and others. Again, this is an area that sometimes involves cross-Government work, so I would be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss his ideas and proposals.”
Chris’ proposals ask the government to re-profile the walls as a unique and important historical monument for all of Britain and allocate an additional £600,000 per annum to Cheshire West and Chester’s funding settlement which would have to be used exclusively for the upkeep of the walls.
Chris has also launched a petition on his website inviting people to join the campaign by adding their names to any future correspondence to the Chancellor regarding this issue. The campaign is calling for 2000 signatures for 2000 years of history and aims to highlight to the Chancellor and other ministers the weight of local support for this issue.
Commenting on this campaign Chris said:
“Like everyone in Chester, I love our city walls. They’re a source of great pride and an important feature in our city’s historic identity.
The Council have done an exceptional job in their upkeep and are committed to continued preservation of the walls. However, with £466 million of funding cut by the central government over the last decade, extra funding is desperately needed.
We’ve been knocked back once by the Treasury last year, but I will keep going and keep pushing for new funding, ring-fenced for the walls. I welcome with the Minister’s latest positive and sensible response and look forward to meeting him soon. I invite people to show their support for this campaign by adding their name to it on my website”