2011 news articles

2011 news articles

Country House Rescue for Channel 4

Channel Four is looking for people who own historic or country houses to take part in the fourth series of Country House Rescue. As ever, the programme will follow the fortunes of a number of stately British homes as the owners seek to diversify and raise the revenue they need to survive.

Each hour-long programme will feature one house over a six month period. Each film will show the journey that many country home owners have to face - seeking appropriate ways of keeping up with the bills and ensuring that these homes stay afloat, which will allow their families, and the nation, to enjoy them for generations to come.

We're looking for owners of historic homes around the country who would be interested in taking part. From those who are looking to diversify for the first time and don't know where to turn, to those who've started the process but have run out of ideas and money and would value our advice, we would like to hear from you all.

Owners should be open to the idea of how their home can work as a business and be willing to explore ways to achieve that goal.

If you would like to find out more, please call Sam on 020 7290 0660 or email countryhouserescue@betty.co.uk as soon as possible.

The impact of the building occupant on energy consumption - call for papers

Earthscan Journals are sending a call out for research papers for its special issue focusing on the impact of the building occupant on energy consumption.

Suggestions of topics:

  • Impact of occupants' behaviours on energy use
  • Influence of lifestyle on energy consumption
  • Monitoring techniques for occupants' behaviour
  • Smart meters and displays for influencing occupants
  • Case studies on occupants' behaviour analysis
  • Occupants' behaviour modelling
  • Occupants focused Post Occupancy Evaluation methods
  • Appliance-level energy monitoring
  • Research methodologies for behaviour analysis
  • Wireless technologies for tracking occupants
  • Social and economical analysis on the occupants' influence

Important Dates:

  • Expression of Interest by 15th December 2011
  • Response to Expression of Interest by 15 January 2012
  • Deadline for first submissions by 31st July 2012
  • Reviews by 30th September 2012
  • Final Submissions by 30th November 2012
  • Camera ready papers to the publisher by 30th December 2012

Guest Editors:
1. Prof Vian Ahmed, School of the Built Environment, University of Salford, UK. Email: v.ahmed@salford.ac.uk<mailto:v.ahmed@salford.ac.uk>
2. Prof Lamine Mahdjoubi, Department of Construction and Property, University of the West of England, UK. Email: lamine.mahdjoubi@uwe.ac.uk<mailto:lamine.mahdjoubi@uwe.ac.uk>
3. Dr Pathmeswaran Raju, School of Engineering, Design and Manufacturing Systems, Birmingham City University, UK. Email: path.raju@bcu.ac.uk<mailto:path.raju@bcu.ac.uk>

Submissions:
Submit your Expression of Interests to Dr. Raju Pathmeswaran via path.raju@bcu.ac.uk<mailto:path.raju@bcu.ac.uk> .

DfT Shared Space report

On 20 October 2011 The Department for Transport published Local Transport Note 01/11 on Shared Space.

The research base (reviewed at the UDG National Conference on Urban Design by Stuart Reid of MVA) shows that sharing is not to do with eye-contact, but is down to a decision by the motorist whether to share; Motorists are more likely to share at slower speeds.  Their willingness to share decreases steadily up till a speed of around 17 mph after which the decline steepens.  The research also found that the appearance of a street strongly influenced drivers’ speed choice and willingness to share.

While Manual for Streets refers to carriageway width and forward visibility as being key factors in influencing speed, the research base TRL 661 found that these factors only accounted for around 20 percent of the variation in drivers’ speeds. The two pieces of research underline the importance of design quality in creating a street environment that looks like a place for people rather than a piece of trunk road infrastructure.

Jeremy Hunt's speech to the World Travel Market on 7 November 2011

Introduction
I’m delighted to be here this morning. The World Travel Market is one of the premier events in the travel and tourism calendar, and it’s being held at a most critical time for the industry.

As you heard from James, inspiration is the essence of any Olympic year, and it will certainly be the watchword for UK tourism in 2012.

A Government that ‘gets’ tourism
The Games offer us a unique chance to show just how valuable the global tourism can be to the global economy – and, yes, to issues of world concern, like sustainability, climate change and poverty that are rightly at the front of people’s minds today.

And to make the most of this special year, we know the tourism sector needs Government on their side.

That’s why in John Penrose, we’ve got a dedicated tourism minister – the first ever in the UK – though I appreciate we are playing catch up with what many other countries have done so well in term of looking after the industry’s interests.

It’s also why we’ve got a new tourism strategy: a new way of doing business, curbing bureaucracy, creating a more nimble, bottom-up, industry-led way of working for the digital age.

And it’s why we’re now getting our teeth into more than 60 regulations holding back the hospitality sector – from simplifying licensing, to scrapping rules on where you need to place no smoking signs.

Securing growth
Now I’m not saying we’ve cracked every issue just yet. But we are listening and we are responding – and we’re doing this because we know that a strong UK economy depends upon a strong UK tourism sector.

It is already our fifth biggest industry, and it could become one of our fastest-growing sectors over the next ten years, supporting as many as 3 million jobs by 2020.

And Fiona’s right to say that unlocking the huge markets of India and China is key. Forecasts tell us the number of visits from China alone could triple in the next decade.

We’re seeing the signs of this already. Visitors from China were up almost a quarter in 2010, and in the first eight months of this year numbers have risen again by a third.

Let’s remember the average Chinese visitor spends about three times more than the typical visitor whilst they’re here – our Chinese friends love to shop, and we provide plenty of opportunities in Britain for them to do just that!

The changing market for tourism
So the opportunity is there, the potential is there – but so is the challenge too.

As Fiona says, events in Thailand and Egypt show us that global tourism markets are fragile in the face of natural disaster or political upheaval – though as we see from outbound tourism in Japan, they can also be amazingly resilient.

In the UK, our tourism industry isn’t free from its own problems, but there are encouraging signs:

  • visits to the UK from overseas residents are up 7% in the second quarter of 2011;
  • Tourist spend per visit is 3% higher in the year up to August;
  • And domestic visitor spend in the first 6 months is also up 10% on 2010.

In the last year, the UK has also risen to third in the Nations Brand Index.

It shows improving global recognition of our charms and our strengths as a tourism destination, and it’s something that should give us real confidence as we look forward.

The Olympic challenge
And next year does represent an extraordinary chance to push on. Never again will the UK hold such a sustained and inspirational sequence of world class events.

  • The Diamond Jubilee in June, building on this year’s Royal Wedding – a fantastic moment of national celebration.
  • The great London 2012 Festival – more than a thousand events planned around the country, from music and pyrotechnics on Lake Windermere to an epic peace symphony in Birmingham.
  • The Torch Relay – Britain’s own fiesta moment, with eight thousand torchbearers carrying the Olympic flame to all parts of the UK during May, June and July.
  • And, then of course, the main event itself.  The 30th Olympic and Paralympic Games – the biggest sporting event in the world, coming to one of the greatest cities in the world.

The ‘GREAT’ campaign
So we have the highest hopes for next year. But we’re also mindful of what Shakespeare said – about expectations being “the root of all heartache”.

Previous Olympics, we know, haven’t always been plain sailing when it comes to tourism benefits.

And if we want to buck the trend and defy the tourism dip that other Olympic hosts have experienced in the past then we need a clear plan.

Visit Britain has already launched its biggest ever marketing campaign to promote the UK across our key markets.

But I’m now pushing this even further, working with the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and other colleagues across Government, to put tourism at the heart of our growth ambitions.

The result is that tourism now takes centre stage in a much wider ‘GREAT’ campaign launched by the Prime Minister in New York a few weeks ago.

GREAT is a single, integrated campaign for all international-facing parts of the Government, allowing us to speak with one voice in promoting the UK as a place to visit, to live, to invest and to do business.

It’s no small vote of confidence in the sector – and in the key role we think it will play in the UK recovery – that the lion share of the £39 million invested in the GREAT campaign will go to support Visit Britain’s tourism activities.

The combined Visit Britain/GREAT campaign now has £127 million behind it.

It’s being rolled out across our top priority markets, including as the emergent economies of China, India and Brazil, and it’s expected to generate 4.6 million extra visitors, more than 2 billion in visitor spend and nearly 60,000 jobs over the next four years.

Domestic tourism – the 20.12% deal
Let’s not forget too that this is the opportunity of a lifetime to support what has too often been a poor relation in tourism priorities – our domestic tourism industry.

Today, the route for the 2012 Torch Relay is announced: an 8,000 mile procession with 8,000 torchbearers featuring shows, events, festivals in every part of the country.

It really will be a great British celebration, a time for families and communities to come out and enjoy their own Olympic moment in their own country.

The relay will shine a light on Britain at its best – and it’s therefore the perfect moment to promote holidays at home.

Our ambition is to get the same proportion of people holidaying in the UK as go abroad for their vacation.

This will drive Visit England’s campaigns, and especially its new scheme offering a unique discount of 20.12%.

The campaign will run throughout next year, backed with heavy-weight TV advertising.

And I’m pleased that major names are already lining up behind it, with Bourne Leisure, Hoseasons Group, Superbreak, The Eden Project and the Coach Tourism Council among those already backing the scheme.

Over three years, we expect Visit England’s campaign will generate 12,000 new jobs, £480 million of extra tourism spend and 5.3 million more nights away on short breaks.

World Tourism Summit
As much as 2012 will define the country, it will also define the reputation of the UK tourism industry.

It serves as a test of how well we rise to the challenges and opportunities of an Olympic year. A test too, of our commitment to tourism as a global force for economic growth and increasing international understanding.

And so next year we will host a World Tourism Summit with Ministers from twenty of the world’s top tourism destinations coming together to discuss the power of events.

It is a chance for Governments to come together to reflect on 2012; to learn from what we intend to achieve in the UK, and to encourage new ideas and new ways of looking at events tourism in the future.

Conclusion
It takes me to the point I started with – that as much as next year is about amazing sport and top class performances, it’s also about inspiring a long term legacy.

It’s very much in our hands to shape and influence what we take from 2012, and as a Government, we want to facilitate this and make sure next year is the best-ever Games for tourism.

The World Travel Market, as a forum for discovery, for new ideas, fresh connections and, yes, some magic and inspiration too, is another step on this journey.

So I hope you enjoy the event, I wish you every success for the year ahead, and it’s now my great pleasure to formally declare World Travel Market 2011 open for business.

VisitEngland’s Regional Growth Fund Bid is Successful

The 3-Year tourism project, ‘Growing Tourism Locally’ will stimulate economic growth and jobs at a local level

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced on 31 October that VisitEngland’s bid for additional funding from the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) has been successful.

The money will be used on a three-year project entitled, ‘Growing Tourism Locally’. A key part of the project will be a national campaign aimed at inspiring Britons to take more short breaks and holidays at home and in doing so grow jobs in the tourism sector.

This is a huge boost for VisitEngland as the country’s national tourist board, working in partnership to facilitate growth at a local level, and an acknowledgement of the value of our industry to England’s economy.  With this additional money we can mount a serious campaign to stimulate domestic tourism that has the potential to create the equivalent of 9,500 full time jobs in areas across the country suffering economic challenges.

Our strategy is to work with tourism partners and the private sector at a national and local level. Our partners will manage elements of the campaign pertaining directly to their local destination, whilst VisitEngland will manage the national strategy which will support this local activity. We will work closely with Government on the next stage of the process which determines the terms and conditions of the funding.

James Berresford, VisitEngland’s Chief Executive

The national marketing campaign will see VisitEngland working closely with private sector partners to match fund the grant received from the RGF. 

The campaign will capitalise on next year’s once-in-a-generation events like London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, The Diamond Jubilee, the Cultural Olympiad, and the Torch Relay that will act as a catalyst to showcase the whole of the country.

The funding applied for will be allocated to a number of destination partners in England that will work closely with VisitEngland to design and implement local campaigns.  Some of those partners have already been confirmed and include Marketing Manchester, Marketing Birmingham, Bath Tourism Plus, Visit Peak District and Derbyshire, Cumbria Tourism and Visit York.   In addition to targeted activity in these areas there will be a series of thematic campaigns focusing on countryside, heritage, coastal and business tourism.

For more information or to set up interviews contact:

Sarah Long, Head of Corporate Communications Tel: 020 7578 1452, Mob: 07500555651, Email: sarah.long@visitengland.org  Website:  www.visitengland.org

The list of local partners confirmed to date include many within HTF Local Authority Member areas:

  • Bath Tourism Plus
  • Marketing Birmingham
  • Destination Bristol
  • Visit Cornwall
  • Cumbria Tourism
  • VisitDurham
  • Visit Kent
  • Marketing Manchester
  • The Mersey Partnership
  • Newcastle Gateshead initiative
  • Northumberland Tourism
  • Experience Nottinghamshire
  • Visit Peak District and Derbyshire
  • Visit York

Listed industrial buildings are more at risk than almost any other kind of heritage

In response to the largest ever research project into the condition of England’s industrial heritage a report was published on 19 October 2011 by English Heritage together with its annual Heritage at Risk Register. HTF Honorary Member George Ferguson, who has a track record of rescuing industrial heritage sites, is of the opinion that "Old industrial buildings can present a great opportunity for inspiring and sustainable conversions to a variety of uses. The best examples balance the need for creative re-use and revitalisation with the revelation of the history and character that undoubtedly brings added value to such conversions."

The project revealed that:

  • listed industrial buildings are more at risk than almost any other kind of heritage. Almost 11% of grade I and II* industrial buildings are at risk, an extraordinarily high number compared to the 3% of grade I and II* buildings which are at risk in England
  • 40% of listed industrial buildings at risk, such as mills, warehouses and factories, could be put to sustainable and economic new uses. The remaining 60%, typically buildings that contain historic machinery, redundant engineering structures or mining remains, are of immense cultural value and often greatly loved. These have the power to unite local communities and although not easy, there are countless examples that have been saved by committed local groups as conserved sites in the landscape often with public access or as visitor attractions
  • lead, tin, copper and coal mines are the industrial sites most at risk on Register. Textile mills also make up a large proportion and these buildings are often concentrated in a single place – Lancashire, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. The remains of 20thcentury industries are poorly understood, under-appreciated and very much at risk
  • most industrial heritage sites at risk in the North East are things which are not capable of being converted for new uses, indeed 54% are connected to various forms of mining. Most industrial heritage sites at risk in the East of England are wind and watermills and most in the South East are maritime structures.

A poll of public attitudes to industrial heritage also published by English Heritage on 19 October shows that:

  • almost half the population (43%) do not know when the industrial revolution took place
  • however, 86% agree that it is important we value and appreciate industrial heritage
  • 80% think it is just as important as our castles and country houses
  • 71% think industrial heritage sites should be reused for modern day purposes as long as their character is preserved
  • only 9% considered it depressing or an eyesore.

Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: “Britain led the way in global industrialisation and as a result we are custodians of the world’s most important industrial heritage. It is, however, one of the elements of our heritage most at risk.

“Forty percent of these buildings could be reused to house new advanced manufacturing, the sorts of technology, green engineering and creative and inventive businesses on which the country’s economic future now depends.

“However, 60% of our industrial heritage won’t ever attract developers and businesses. Its future could be bleak but, as our poll shows, people are passionate about our industrial past and since the 1960s there has been a strong tradition of local groups taking on the preservation of their local industrial heritage.

“Responding to the need to save buildings such as mills, factories and warehouses, we are offering:

Help for developers. A new Developers portal on the English Heritage website will offer advice relevant to re-using industrial buildings and each English Heritage local office will, for the first time, publish a list of 10 “at risk” priority sites, many of which will be industrial. Developers interested in taking these on will get additional help from English Heritage to guide them through the process.

Help for owners. A new guide to keeping buildings safe from decay or in temporary use until better economic times, is published today. Vacant Historic Buildings: An Owner’s Guide to Temporary Uses, Maintenance and Mothballing is available from the English Heritage website. This advice will be backed-up by grants, already averaging £2 million a year for urgent repairs.

“Responding to the need for support and recognition for groups looking after industrial structures such as the pit head winding gear at collieries, redundant bridges or kilns, furnaces and other ruins in the countryside or industrial buildings with no future use, we are offering:

Help for heritage rescue groups. Where commercial reuse is an unlikely option, a rescue by a charitable Building Preservation Trust might provide the answer. English Heritage, together with the Pilgrim Trust and the J Paul Getty Junior Foundation is putting £180,000 into a three-year industrial “cold spot” grant scheme to kick start rescue projects in places where few are going on. The scheme will be run by the Architectural Heritage Fund, who, together with English Heritage are putting £400,000 into part-funding three people to match-make voluntary heritage groups with industrial buildings needing rescue

Help for industrial sites preserved as visitor attractions. English Heritage is to part-fund an Industrial Heritage Support Officer to set up a network of support and advice for trusts and voluntary groups.

Looking forward, English Heritage will be doing at least 25 projects over the next few years that will result in the better understanding and protection of our industrial heritage, such as one on the lead mines of Derbyshire, a water mills project in partnership with the Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings, and a project on buildings for the motor car.

“We are also recognising the efforts of local groups and celebrating philanthropic involvement in the first ever English Heritage Angel Awards ceremony on 31 October. The awards, supported by Andrew Lloyd Webber and co-funded by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, include a prize for the best rescue of an industrial heritage building or site at risk.”

The English Heritage research found that the main risks to industrial heritage are:

  • developers do not consider industrial heritage part of the mainstream property market and can be put off by a site’s scale, possible contamination, conversion costs or, if the building is listed, an exaggerated notion of the restrictions this could impose
  • current low property values in some parts of the country make redundant industrial buildings unlikely to attract tenants and mean that  there is little incentive to repair them
  • developers are finding it hard to raise finance and there is far less public subsidy available. This leads to more industrial buildings remaining derelict and for longer
  • owners, particularly in the current economic climate, find themselves struggling to maintain a large historic building on top of the challenges of running the business itself
  • it can be hard to find funding to maintain sites which can only be preserved as ruins
  • some of England’s 650 industrial visitor attractions need help with business planning, marketing and interpretation. They also need to ensure against loss of skills and a lack of volunteers in the future.

HTF Responds to NPPF

The Historic Towns Forum welcomes the chance to comment on the National Planning Policy Framework. While there is much in the NPPF that is uncontroversial, drawing heavily on existing policy, there are several unsatisfactory elements that the HTF is concerned about and feels need further clarity.

It is difficult to comment on the NPPF in isolation. So much will depend upon the status and content of supporting guidance which should ideally have been issued as part of the same consultation.

Generally the document is less clear than existing policy and is too open to interpretation. To enable economic development, investment and growth, which is the intention, the planning system needs to provide certainty. This is essential for creating investor confidence. It is likely therefore that the NPPF will have a negative impact on investor confidence.

HTF’s Director, Noël James, commented that ‘there is an imperative need for Government to understand the relationship between the quality of the built environment (old and new) and an area’s ability to attract investment. It is essential that the planning system provides the certainty and level of quality assurance necessary to create conditions for entrepreneurial activity. The worry is that the NPPF could actually undermine the ability of many areas to attract jobs and investment. In addition it should be written to apply to all of the country, not just higher growth areas like the south-east.’

‘Town and country planning should be a single activity. Our urban and rural settlements are mutually dependent. National planning policies must strengthen the bonds between communities and not become a means of exclusion.’

The HTF feels that much higher priority should be given to the importance of design and heritage protection. The role of both in securing growth and regeneration, physical and economic, should be given greater priority. HTF feels it necessary to highlight the inherent sustainability of historic towns versus the real conundrum implicit in the term sustainable development as the draft guidance would see it applied. More clarity is required here.

The historic environment is a proven driver of economic prosperity. The distinctive character of our historic towns and cities reflect the investment of individuals, businesses and communities over centuries. These places continue to attract investment because they are successful. People choose to live in, work in, and visit them. Businesses will invest where they find custom. It is important that the NPPF recognises that the historic environment is a means with which to promote growth and entrepreneurship, and that this should be allowed and legislated for in a way that protects and incorporates the historic environment, and not in a way that damages it or the inward and external investment it continues to attract.


HTF, in partnership with Bath Preservation Trust, will be holding a practical half-day workshop on 30 September to help you shape your responses. This will be led by CLG and other experts in the field. Find out more and book your place.

Steven Bee writes on Heritage and Localism

There are two questions to which we will only really know the answers once the Localism Bill is enacted. Do the Government really want to hand power to the people; and do the people really want it?

In my opinion, if it really meant it, the Government would be investing in the local bodies to which power would be transferred – primarily local authorities - rather than cutting the resources on which their capacity and capability depend.  The assertion that the Bill heralds a new era of “bottom-up” plan making is disingenuous and it looks like cost-saving to me.

Obstacles to local determination

It remains the case, however, that what the Government is actually doing is conferring powers. The power to actually use them depends on having control of resources, and no English Government has ever transferred that to its local counterparts.

The structure of local government is a much greater obstacle to greater participation and a more effective planning system than the Planning Acts. That is too big an issue to develop here, just as it has been too big for any recent government to countenance, but local government reorganisation remains the greatest opportunity to cut costs and bureaucracy and strengthen democratic representation, whether it’s representative or participatory.

Will people seize the opportunity?

Having said that, the seriousness with which the Government has responded to those offering ways of making this hastily prepared Bill work, through the successive Committee and Report stages, has been impressive. So I will concentrate on the second question. If the Government does really mean it, and is prepared to see a substantial transfer of responsibility to people locally, how can we help them recognise, accept and embrace such responsibility?

The trouble for the Government is that the more amendments to the Bill it accepts, the closer it returns to the status quo, and the acknowledgement that if we really want to engage people in determining the future of their locality, there is little that can’t actually be done under present planning legislation.

There has been much discussion in the Bill Committee stages of accountability – who will be accountable and to whom? How do we ensure that the level of democracy in local planning at present is secured for neighbourhood planning, particularly for the 65% of England’s population that is ‘unparished’? How do we provide the methods, and of course the resources, to enable people to accept these new responsibilities in a spirit of active civic pride and duty rather than reactive protectionism and self-interest? The emphasis of recent Governments has been on greater choice – that is individual choice – and has encouraged the pursuit of self-interest to sometimes extraordinary ends. How do we persuade people who have been exhorted to ‘choose’ the service that best suits their personal circumstances to start acting in the interests of themselves as part of a wider community?

Clarity of purpose and practice will be essential, but there are a number of essential concepts that still have no clear definition in the new context. Community, Neighbourhood, Local, even Planning will need better and singular definition if we are to avoid endless argument and dissent at later stages. A Government spokesman said that the Bill was prepared without a definition of sustainability. How such a complex Bill could be prepared without at least a working definition of such a key concept is beyond me, but the definition eventually came, presumably informed by consultation:

Our approach to sustainable development involves making the necessary decisions now to realise our vision of stimulating economic growth and tackling the deficit, maximising wellbeing and protecting our environment, without negatively impacting on the ability of future generations to do the same. The three 'pillars' of the economy, society and environment are interconnected. Our long-term economic growth relies on protecting and enhancing the environmental resources that underpin it, and paying due regard to social needs. [my emphasis] (Government Statement 14 June 2011)

The primacy of economic growth in the triad of economy, society and environment is at least now explicit. Some will argue that sustained growth is not essential, and others that continual growth is a recipe for continuing inequality in the short term and environmental disaster in the long term.

Making the most of the opportunity

We have to remain optimistic that sense will prevail before it is too late, and in the meantime make the most of the present political focus on community engagement in the planning process. Many have worked long and tirelessly to encourage and improve engagement and there is a huge amount of experience and good practice to be tapped.

If this is to help inform a mass movement towards localism, it will have to be used consistently and fairly. The Minister, Greg Clarke, acknowledged in Committee that a “model constitution” might promote good practice and consistency in neighbourhood planning without unreasonably constraining local activity.

I offer a set of guiding principles which could help to secure a level of consistency and probity on which the credibility of the new localism will depend:

  1. A neighbourhood can be defined only by the people who share it.
  2. Everyone should be able to participate in planning their neighbourhood.
  3. The relationship with the wider context must be understood and acknowledged.
  4. Decisions based on the neighbourhood plan must be reasonable, transparent and consistent.
  5. Resources required of and for neighbourhoods must be collected and allocated fairly and openly.
  6. The process of neighbourhood planning must be sustained.

These principles would allow people the greatest scope for influencing the future of their area without compromising wider aspirations and obligations. If all plans followed such principles, there is a much better chance that they will be mutually supportive, and will combine to support strategic decisions as well.

Exploiting historic precedent

Fostering greater awareness and appreciation of the heritage of their place – a neighbourhood, village, town – may be one way of encouraging people to accept the ‘new’ responsibilities. It may also offer insights for local groups – parish and town councils or neighbourhood forums – seeking ways of setting their ‘community’ on a route to meeting current and future needs in a sustainable manner.

Our built heritage contributes to the health and wealth of a community in many ways.  It contributes to the environmental quality, character and distinctiveness of places. It is one of the ways in which a community defines and recognises itself – establishing its identity. It offers cultural interest, educational insight and recreational opportunity. It stimulates direct and indirect economic activity. It represents continuity, stability and security, and it promotes a sense of belonging. I will come back to some of these later, but I want to explore this key concept of belonging first, because I think it is fundamental.

The importance of belonging

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs1 was devised in the 1940s to explain the basis of sound mental health in humans. It’s fallen in and out of favour since then but, having come across it again recently, I think it informs the purpose of community planning very well.

Any community, however we define it, has first to secure the resources necessary to sustain life – the lives of its current and future members. After that it needs to protect these resources, to ensure they remain available and uncorrupted for the foreseeable future. The next need in the hierarchy is love and belonging. Now at a community level we don’t necessarily have to love our neighbour, but we do need to feel that we have interests in common. We generally feel more comfortable, safer and secure, if we feel that we belong to the same place, to the same group, as others around us. We are more likely to invest our time in securing our own needs through co-operating with others if we recognise a commonality of interests and the economy of effort. The history of our locality can offer evidence of such co-operation in the past, or the consequences of its absence.

Building on this sense of belonging, the Hierarchy next identifies the need for esteem – self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others.  These are surely the characteristics we would want see reflected in our own neighbourhood plan. Finally, building on self-esteem, the Hierarchy identifies self-actualisation (Maslow was American) – morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts.  These are surely the characteristics of the community we would all like to live in - achieving the greatest potential well-being and fulfilment for the greatest number.

Historic evidence of community health

Our built heritage offers examples of such qualities embedded in buildings, places and landscapes; and I’m afraid, all too often, we also have examples of their opposites – meanness, self-serving, prejudice and exclusiveness.

By starting our neighbourhood planning activities with an appreciation of what we have – how it came about and what values it represents (positive and negative) - we can set a course for the future which protects what is good, and looks for ways of replacing what isn’t. We can appreciate better the benefits of planning ahead (as opposed to simply meeting immediate needs) if we are able to identify and value the heritage that our predecessors left us. This comprises different kinds of heritage: that which was designed and constructed to reflect a faith in the future – our great churches, houses and public buildings; those that were built to withstand natural or human attack  - harbours, fortifications, walls; those built to accommodate great forces – our industrial and  transport heritage; and places that have survived simply because successive generations have found them attractive, useful and durable. So for different reasons they have survived, and the longer they have survived the stronger our affinity with them.

The communal value of historic places

So I return now to the qualities of such places that can inform neighbourhood planning by helping people to feel they have a share in the heritage value of the locality, whoever actually owns it.

Identity

We cannot begin to plan a neighbourhood until we have defined the boundaries of the area to be planned for. This may not be straightforward. In a district of a town or city, perceptions of neighbourhoods may overlap; groups within the community (however we eventually define it) may want to associate or dissociate with particular places or areas. Historical identity can provide a discrete boundary, or at least a holding definition of one for proceeding in the absence of consensus. It may actually offer examples of how such issues have been overcome in the past. A strong physical identity can help to draw disparate communities together.

The principles of communal responsibility, crafted in different periods and circumstances, have proved a sustainable and inspirational model. Historic phases of development and redevelopment of the places they inhabit can help local people to define and explain the nature of their place and their sense of belonging. Historic features are distinctive and instantly recognisable – not only to local people, but to a wider community of interest. The historic names of places become part of local history and the way that communities define their place. This can help strengthen the local sense of identity within a future neighbourhood plan area. In all these ways the explanation of the identity of places can inform arguments about boundaries between them – arguments that will have to be resolved before Plans can proceed.

Continuity

The greater the evidence of time-depth of a place, the greater the sense of stability and security that contributes to belonging. Generally speaking, the longer a place has prospered, the more likely it is to continue to do so. Buildings that continue to serve the occupiers for which they were built, particularly local or national institutions, can provide a reassuring sense of familiarity. Places that contain buildings and spaces reflecting successive periods of history offer not only a distinctive backdrop to present day activity, but a sense of stability.  Much of our surviving heritage has done so because its qualities are highly valued. It sometimes represents earlier periods of civic pride and high ideals to which present and future communities may aspire.  Such features in areas of currently low investment and wealth can suggest that present difficulties are temporary, and the seeds of success remain to be reawakened.

Adaptability

Heritage interests have gained an unfortunate reputation, sometimes justified, for being an obstacle to the necessary changes we need to make to accommodate present and anticipated needs. On the whole, our historic buildings and places survive largely because they have proved structurally and organisationally responsive to changing requirements of successive generations. Our heritage is not just interesting and attractive, but useful. Just because places may now be protected in some way - as conservation areas, listed buildings, designed landscapes – this cannot mean that such adaptability is no longer important or appropriate.

Keeping our heritage in use is the best way of keeping it – attracting the investment necessary to repair and maintain that which is historically significant.  Adaptation is also efficient. A great deal of effort, money and energy is embodied in our historic places. We can minimise our reliance on additional energy by re-using that which we have inherited rather than tearing it down and starting anew. Older buildings may not meet current energy efficiency standards (although it’s not usually as difficult or expensive as people think), but understanding what is most historically significant about a place can inform the best ways of improving its performance. New methods and materials, and the rediscovery of old ones, are offering more ways of improving places without harming their heritage values. Understanding where the heritage values lie in an historic place helps us to find ways of making the fullest use of the site

Diversity

Maslow defines esteem as comprising, among other things, respect of and for others. Our healthiest communities are likely to be the most diverse, living in environments that can accommodate the needs of self-defining different communities by sharing space and amenities. Our heritage offers examples of how diverse interests have occupied, co-incidentally or sequentially, the places where we now live. The time-depth of a place is the heritage equivalent of ecological diversity – it is evidence of sustained existence. Finding new ways of using places that accord with the community’s appreciation of its historic significance will require sensitivity and creativity, but the fact that it has been done before, and the quality of what has been achieved, offers guidance and inspiration.

Our heritage also demonstrates how exclusivity has eventually to be modulated in the interests of long-term survival. The past wealth of some individuals, families, businesses and communities is reflected in our most spectacular heritage, but little that remains is still in exclusive use. Our great houses depend on a commonality of interests - embracing the visiting public, charitable status or commercial activity to avoid dereliction.  Great public buildings, built on the contributions of commerce and industry, depend now on public (and in future possibly community) finance to support them.

More remarkable is the ubiquity and variety of our heritage. Its diversity reflects the differences of time, of place, of people that shaped it and modified it.  In a time when the design, construction and financing of our buildings is undertaken remotely, and constrained by increasing standardisation and regulation, this complexity is a fascinating and informative resource.

Heritage and sustainability

So the ways in which our built heritage can strengthen a sense of belonging within a community falls into these four main categories – identity, continuity, adaptability and diversity. But to go back to my question, will people be willing, even if thus prepared, to accept the greater responsibility for the future of their area that Localism claims to offer?

We will only ensure that communities engage with the new planning regime, and exploit the potential offered by the Localism Bill, if their members can be persuaded of the benefits of accepting such responsibility. To achieve that, we will have to demonstrate that their public and private interests are actually pretty similar, that the qualities of their environment, in particular its heritage, make an important contribution to the sense of belonging they feel, or that they could feel. Because these attributes are common to everyone’s appreciation of their physical environment, irrespective of ownership, it is easier to assert that the community to which they belong shares a commonality of interests.

To stimulate this sense of belonging and common interest we have to help people understand and appreciate the ways in which the place they occupy came to be the way it is, and the successes and failures that shaped it. To achieve this, those of us engaged in promoting the care of our built heritage have to remove the perceptual obstacles of heritage as nostalgic or regretful. We have to demonstrate its relevance to a future-orientated society. We might then persuade people to take responsibility for planning the future of their neighbourhood by capturing their emotional attachment to it, and helping them to articulate that attachment communally. In doing so we will help people to use their local heritage as a sound basis for informed, reliable and truly sustainable development.

©Steven Bee Urban Counsel
August 2011

steven.bee@urbancounsel.co.uk


1 Abraham Maslow Motivation and Personality 1954

£18.3 Million funding earmarked for British best-loved views

On 1 August the Heritage Lottery Fund announced 11 earmarked first-round passes made through its Landscape Partnership (LP) programme. The total investment of £18.3m will enable the conservation of some of the UK’s most distinctive landscapes by supporting schemes that provide long-term social, economic and environmental benefits for rural areas. Read more.

Heritage Alliance Hero Awards closing soon – spread the word!

A quick reminder that nominations to this year’s Heritage Alliance Hero Awards will close on 15 September. The Awards celebrate the outstanding contribution to society made by heritage volunteers. Receiving a ‘Hero’ helped last year’s winner and runners-up to secure local press attention and raise the profile of their projects in their local areas.

If you know of an inspirational volunteer-led project (completed in the last 12 months) from among your membership or networks, please consider nominating for the Awards. View the full details and criteria. Enquiries should be directed to Alliance Trustee Denis Dunstone.

To ensure the Awards go from strength to strength in this important second year, please spread the word to your members on the frontline and encourage them to submit entries.

The winner and runners-up will receive their prizes from THA Chairman Loyd Grossman OBE at THA’s annual Heritage Day event in London, in December.