Letter: Whose heritage?

Sir: I was disappointed that the article by Fran Abrams, "Britain is losing art to wealthy foreigners" (1 December), seemed to imply that the Heritage Lottery Fund was responsible for the "heritage crisis" described in the annual report of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art.

The Fund has in fact done an enormous amount to save works of art for the nation. It has now given more than pounds 60m worth of support for acquisitions to national and regional museums in all corners of the UK.

The Fund currently sets aside pounds 10m a year to this end. Trustees are quite able, however, to draw on a contingency if that is needed. Indeed, I point to the recent grant of pounds 7.6m which helped the National Galleries of Scotland to buy the Gosford Botticelli as proof that the system works, in this case with the applicant, the Fund and the Government working together to secure this great work for the nation.

Conversely, I should observe that the Fund did not receive applications for the Rembrandt, the Poussin and the Fra Bartolomeo to which the article referred.

I am also concerned that the word "heritage" seems to signify only works of art, and that the crisis is only here. What about the UK's dilapidated townscapes and endangered habitats?

Lottery funding for the heritage must be spent here, too, on projects of both local value and national importance, in order to benefit communities up and down the country. It is therefore absolutely right, as Chris Smith says, that the Heritage Lottery Fund should have a balanced portfolio.


Chairman National Heritage Memorial Fund

London SW1