The social, economic and environmental value of heritage assets has been proven beyond doubt but questions surrounding heritage protection remain. A strategic approach to conservation management as part of planning and development will help not only to protect and enhance conservation areas but also to achieve broader corporate objectives.
A national seminar series has been developed by the Historic Towns Forum and English Heritage to support those in local authorities responsible for strategic management and policy making (it is not aimed at conservation practitioners, courses on the theme of conservation areas appraisals and management proposals are available on the HELM training programme).
The four workshops, held in Exeter, Manchester, Birmingham and London during January and February, followed a common five part format: scene setting by English Heritage Staff; the work of Heritage Champions; strategic and corporate issues; making effective use of the available tools; and a local case study and site visit. Each workshop included time for questions and discussion. The content of the sessions is summarised very briefly below.
CAAR and Conservation Context
The presentations from the Regional Directors and Historic Areas Advisors varied from area to area, but broadly covered:
- the national policy context;
- the importance of conservation in general and Conservation Areas in particular;
- the Conservation Areas at Risk survey
- the 2009 survey, its findings and the differences between areas
- the befits of participating
- the improved 2010 survey; and
- examples of good Conservation Area practice within the regions.
These presentations reflected the perse personalities of the Champions and their experience. Key points they addressed were:
- the profile of the area for which they were the Champion;
- the conservation context and issues;
- the importance of personal knowledge and experience (from themselves and residents) in identifying and valuing heritage;
- examples of good practice; and
- the role of the Champion and conditions for success – having a Champion shows the local authority cares.
Strategic Management of Assets
The same basic presentation was made to each workshop, although information and examples were tailored to reflect the different regions. The presentations focussed on the important relationships between conservation, especially Conservation Areas, and:
- the broader environment;
- the community;
- the economy; and
- overall local authority performance.
The same basic presentation was made to each workshop. Working from a case study of Falmouth, it considered:
- Conservation Area Appraisals;
- Conservation Area Management Plans;
- community and stakeholder engagement;
- Article 4 Directions; and
- links to urban design and planning policy.
Local Case Studies
Local authority staff presented case studies and conducted guided tours of:
- Exeter - Conservation in the Fore Street and Quay area;
- Manchester - City Centre Conservation Area;
- Birmingham - Warwick Bar Conservation Area; and
- London – St James’s Conservation Area;
Summary of issues arising
The workshops promoted the importance of Conservation Area work and the CAAR survey to a large audience and presented a wide range of material. Delegates expressed a passionate commitment to conservation and there was a clear understanding of how the responsibilities should be exercised. At the same time the discussions prompted many inpidual concerns to be aired and these varied from area to area A number of key issues emerged from the presentations and the points raised by delegates.
- CAAR issues vary from area to area and the state of the local economy is a critical factor.
- Not everyone supports conservation.
- Effective conservation needs strong leadership and effective Champions.
- Effective conservation is under threat from a lack of resources, so it is important to identify and focus on high priorities
- Traffic and highway management are among the greatest threats to the quality of Conservation Areas and are not fully recognised by the CAAR survey.
- People outside Conservation Areas can feel excluded/neglected and there is a risk of widening the gap between communities.
- How can greater protection be given to non-designated areas?
- There is a need for a heritage and culture indicator to be included in the national indicator set for local authorities.
- Concerns over the CAAR Survey included:
- finding the resources to complete it;
- the quality of the questionnaire; and
- uncertainty about the impact of the outcomes.
- Conservation officers need to address both strategic and detailed issues.
- There is a need for an integrated, multi-agency approach to conservation
- Conservation needs to be built into planning processes, especially RSS, the LDF and master planning and have a robust evidence base.
- Local authorities need to ensure that conservation issues are fully taken account of in development management (control) processes.
- There is a need to spread advice and information, e.g. to people living in Conservation Areas; and the role of ICT in this can be expanded.
HTF is very grateful to the speakers and other participants for their support for the seminars.
Brian Human, HTF Vice Chair
- Concerns over the CAAR Survey included: