Conservation areas are in the vanguard of heritage protection. Designated by local authorities, they reflect the value placed by communities on cherished neighbourhoods, villages and town centres, giving them a key role in the regeneration of local areas.
This recognition of local distinctiveness is enshrined in legislation. It is not a device for preventing change or new development. Every conservation area contains places which have changed. Often these changes are features of the character which we wish to protect. Often, too, further changes have to be accommodated if we are to ensure such places have a viable and beneficial future.
Well-managed change can bring with it the investment and care necessary to keep places in good condition. Poor management can result in neglect and decline, increasing the risk that places of great historic importance will be lost forever.
The balance between protecting and adapting places
So how do we reconcile the desire to protect the character of places we have inherited with the need to adapt them for current and future use?
'Constructive conservation' is the term English Heritage uses to define the protection and adaptation of historic places through active management. 'Valuing Places' provides examples of how this has been achieved in a range of circumstances. We hope these examples will inspire and inform others facing similar challenges.
The task requires vision, flair and commitment; a deep understanding of the actual qualities that make a place distinctive or unique; an ability to ensure that these are reinforced, and not diminished, by change. The care of our built inheritance has to be carefully balanced with the economic and social imperatives of the present. As the case studies in this section demonstrate, the two requirements are not mutually exclusive.
The adaptation and reuse of historic buildings is an inherently sustainable activity. The energy embedded in them is an investment; a legacy not to be squandered. Through informed, careful adaptation we can not only reduce the amount of energy expended in creating new development, but also achieve greater energy efficiency, sustaining the utility of historic places into the future.
Innovative case studies
The eighteen case studies featured in 'Valuing Places' illustrate a range of exemplary or innovative practice. The order in which the case studies are presented reflects the sequence of activities in the process of effective conservation area management.
- Local engagement;
- Establishing significance;
- Policies for protection, including management plans and strategic initiatives; and
- Reinforcing character, including local place-making, public realm and managing change.
To see all the case studies you can either download the full PDF of the book from the right hand side of this page or go to the individual pages in this section, each of which features a short synopsis of the case studies according to the themes.