Agreement nears on running of Apsley House

Wellington family tried to withhold information

LONDON. English Heritage and Lord Douro are about to conclude a new agreement on the running of Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington’s London residence. The situation is particularly sensitive because Lord Douro, the son of the present duke, served as an English Heritage commissioner (or trustee) for four years starting in September 2003.

There have been protracted negotiations between English Heritage and the Duke of Wellington’s family over the use of Apsley House (The Art Newspaper, February 2007, pp1, 8). The state rooms are open

to the public by English Heritage, while the family retains a

large private apartment on the upper floor.

Lord Douro, when still a Commissioner, resisted publication of certain details about the situation. At the Commission’s meeting on 11 July 2007 (at which he was absent), he “had asked for the paragraph on Apsley House to be included within the exempt [unpublished] report”. This request was rejected by the Commission, since the details were not deemed to fall within Freedom of Information Act exemptions.

The Art Newspaper has obtained access to the relatively anodyne four-sentence report by chief executive Dr Simon Thurley which Lord Douro wanted withheld. It recorded that a Memorandum of Under­standing was being arranged by the Duke of Wellington, English Heritage and the Depart­ment for Culture, Media and Sport. The agreement concerned the management of Apsley House,

“to clarify areas of confusion and thus potential conflict”. While

a Commissioner, Lord Douro always declared an interest

when Apsley House was discussed. His term of office ended last September.

Negotiations over the Memorandum of Understanding have taken longer than anticipated, but it was finally approved in April by English Heritage Commissioners. We have been told that the agreement is now “close” to being signed. M.B.

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