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NADFAS Heritage volunteers. Thisprovided immediate confirmation of theway NADFAS is seen in HHA houses, notas providing irregular, untrained helpers,but as highly skilled, albeit unpaid,members of the professional house team.Heritage volunteers are active atMarkenfield Hall, Hagley Hall, HarvingtonHall and Normanby Hall, to name a few. Historic house owners, particularlythose who open their houses to thepublic, tread a narrow path. They wishto keep that lived-in atmosphere visitorsfind so welcoming. Equally, they mustkeep high standards of conservation.This balance is something Heritagevolunteers understand, making theminvaluable supporters of the heritagecontained in Britain's privately andcharitably owned historic houses.So what is the outlook for our historichouses at a time of financial uncertainty?In some respects it is promising. Withmore people holidaying in Britain, visitornumbers to our best known historichouses were very good in 2009. Visitingstately homes, castles and other historicmonuments is also the top reason givenby international visitors for coming to ourshores, with 73% visiting a historichouse last year. Tourism, underpinnedby people's love of our heritage, isBritain's unsung success story. It mustremain successful in the future to helpthe rest of the economy out ofrecession. Providing over two millionjobs, plus training opportunities for theyoung and previously unskilled, it shouldreceive far better recognition ingovernment than it does. Historichouses generate 30,000 jobs in fragilerural areas and pump upwards of£1.6bn into the economy. Historic houses will be able to makethis invaluable contribution to the widereconomy only if their concerns are actedon. Concerts, festivals and other eventsaccount for upwards of seven millionvisits a year to HHA houses. Ownersshould not be priced out of the marketby excessive licence fees under theLicensing Act; one house saw its licencerise from £13,000 to £64,000 in recentyears. Nor should their brown touristsigns be removed the moment theirvisitor numbers dip below a certainthreshold. It seems ridiculous thatMcDonald's merits a brown sign outsideCannock, but Chillington Hall does not. As with tourism, so too education.One in five of the HHA's 1,500 REVIEW / SUMMER201039HISTORIC HOUSES ASSOCIATIONhouses offers facilities, but educationalvisits to HHA properties, currently400,000 a year, are likely to fall as costs,such as insurance and transport rise. Underlying these day-to-daychallenges is pressure on owners tosupport the long-term maintenance ofhistoric houses, their contents andsurrounding land and buildings. A surveyof HHA members was telling. Between2003 and 2009, the backlog of urgentrepairs to HHA member houses rose by50%, from £260m to £390m. To clear thebacklog over 10 years would require anadditional £40m of work per year, on topof the £140m already being carried out.We are therefore making threeproposals to the new government. Thefirst is a recommendation to improve thetax treatment of Heritage MaintenanceFunds. HMFs were invented to supportlong-term conservation of major historicbuildings and we believe our proposedimprovements encourage their greateruse, at relatively small cost -under £6mper year. Second, to address the problem ofurgent repairs a limited income tax reliefon maintenance costs of up to 400important historic buildings should alsobe introduced, costing no more than afurther £10m per year. Third, action on lottery fund use wouldsupport restoration of privately ownedhistoric buildings open to the publicwithout raising overall levels of publicexpenditure. Without these modest measures it ishard to see how houses can be lookedafter in the future. And being lookedafter means an enduring partnership formany with NADFAS. Long may it last. NADFAS members wishing to becomea Friend of the HHA can benefit from aspecial discount of £3 per household For further details please, one of the HHAproperties inwhich NADFASHeritageVolunteers areactiveBottom:HeritageVolunteers atwork inHarvington HallIvisited a well-known Historic HousesAssociation (HHA) member houserecently and heard it was the house'spolicy not to take on volunteers. It was amajor visitor attraction and there was, itwas explained, a need to observe theminutiae of regulation and for all staffengaged with visitors to be properlytrained and supervised. So I wasparticularly interested to hear, as wewent inside the house, that the peoplecarefully cleaning the furniture were