The Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has announced that historic, and sometimes controversial, statues will be protected under a new law.
The new law, which encourages statues to be “maintained and explained”, means that for statues to be removed, they would require either listed building consent or planning permission to remove.
The new law protects approximately 20,000 statutes in England from being removed, something which came to prominence in 2020 after the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol was removed from its plinth and pushed into the harbour after several years of campaigning and petitioning from local residents.
The removal of Edward Colston’s statue led to campaigns to remove statues of influential figures in British history such as Robert Peel and Winston Churchill.Hon
Robert Jenrick said:
“For hundreds of years, public statues and monuments have been erected across the country to celebrate individuals and great moments in British history.
“They reflected the people’s preferences at the time, not a single, official narrative or doctrine. They are hugely varied, some loved, some reviled, but all part of the weft and weave of our uniquely rich history and built environment.
“We cannot – and should not – now try to edit or censor our past. That’s why I am changing the law to protect historic monuments and ensure we don’t repeat the errors of previous generations, losing our inheritance of the past without proper care.
“What has stood for generations should be considered thoughtfully, not removed on a whim, any removal should require planning permission and local people should have the chance to be properly consulted. Our policy in law will be clear, that we believe in explaining and retaining heritage, not tearing it down.”
The new law has had a mixed response with some praising its defence of democracy and freedom, with others saying the law has come at the wrong time.