Valuing Places - Establishing Significance in Conservation Areas

Understanding what makes a conservation area distinctive and special underpins its positive management

Pioneering use of 'authenticity matrices' in Bradford

Summary: With 5,800 listed buildings and 59 conservation areas, it's vital that Bradford understands the ways in which its historic environment is changing. Conservation area assessments had been carried out throughout the city by 2005. Work on character appraisals for each then began using a new methodology called an 'authenticity matrix'.

The condition of roofs, chimney stacks, walls, windows, doors, shop fronts and boundary walls for each pre-1956 building was assessed and given a score based on the number of original features retained. This was then used to calculate a percentage of authenticity for each area. Each area's authenticity percentage is displayed, along with a SWOT analysis, in its eight-page appraisal document, available on the council's website.

As part of the process, guidance on repairs is made available, monthly public conservation forums are held, environmental improvements are carried out, and an enforcement officer deals with any unauthorised changes to listed buildings. The process took around five years to complete and was carried out in-house.

"Once it's done it makes a real difference. We're no longer fire fighting; we've taken the initiative. We can see the benefits already." Christine Kerrin, Team Leader, Design and Conservation, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council

Idle and the Green conservation area in Bradford

The Idle and the Green conservation area, an urban village reshaped by Bradford's rapid Victorian-era expansion, is under significant pressure from small-scale changes to residential buildings, but nevertheless retains much local character. The 'authenticity' matrix was tested out here in February 2007; it has now been applied across the city.
© English Heritage

Integrating the historic environment into housing renewal in Margate

Summary: The once-grand Victorian seaside suburb of Cliftonville is one of the most deprived wards in south-east England, characterised by a rapid turnover in population and a high level of dependency on benefits.

A neighbourhood renewal assessment was commissioned in 2004 and the Margate Renewal Partnership established two years later. Conservation staff, with support from English Heritage, made the case for a heritage-led approach to the area's regeneration, which maintains the area's character while attracting housing investment.

Supported by local community groups, a £20,000 grant from English Heritage, with £5,000 from Thanet District Council, is funding character appraisals. A new conservation area, Dalby Square, was created in July 2010. The experience of undertaking housing renewal here will be reviewed, and if successful will result in a further two potential conservation areas being created.

"Much of the historic townscape of Cliftonville is intact. The quality, scale and setting of the buildings presents some real opportunities; it is one of the major ways in which we can attract inward investment." Derek Harding, Director, Margate Renewal Partnership

Houses in Cliftonville, Margate

Cliftonville, Margate, combines high levels of deprivation with well-preserved traces of former grandeur.
© James Davies, English Heritage