Memorandum by Regeneration Through Heritage,
The Prince's Foundation (HIS 17)
Regeneration Through Heritage is an initiative
in The Prince's Foundation that assists community-based partnerships
regenerate vacant or under-used heritage buildings at risk, and
provides an educational support programme on the methodology needed
to achieve best practice and good quality sustainable conservation.
Buildings may be industrial, commercial or public (not normally
residential) and must be either listed (or listable) or of historic
Projects made possible by RTH have:
A final development value of £60
Secured more than £32 million
in capital and revenue to date.
Created space for 1,100 jobs.
Will generate a further 1,000 jobs.
Brought 500,000 sq ft of floorspace
back into use.
2 warehousesunder restoration.
1 maltingsunder restoration.
1 foundryunder restoration.
1 cotton millunder restoration.
All, previously vacant or derelict, have been acquired
for restoration by private developers as a direct consequence
of RTH involvement.
1. THE CONTRIBUTION
1.1 That historic buildings have a pivotal
role in catalysing urban regeneration is becoming more widely
appreciated. Historic buildings provide a quality of built environment
very rarely equalled in contemporary building practice. Historic
buildings also give places character and meaning that form a link
with the past but can be utilised to generate contemporary economic
opportunities. People are attracted to places that they can relate
to, that are interesting and pleasant and, as people are attracted
there, so is investment. The regeneration of historic buildings
makes obvious economic sense, as demonstrated by the re-use of
major industrial buildings, such as Dean Clough Mill and the repurposing
of commercial buildings in town centres such as Glasgow and Manchester.
1.2 Regeneration Through Heritage helps
to initiate projects in communities with assets of redundant or
under-used historic buildings but which lack the economic vitality
for the private sector to take the levels of risk associated with
redevelopment. RTH has found that historic buildings provide a
most effective key to opening the economic and social potential
of deprived communities. Whereas historic buildings were usually
built to very high architectural standards, contributing much
to a place's identity, their redundancy can exemplify a place's
misfortunes. Decaying historic buildings serve as a persistent
reminder to their surrounding communities that "the trade
winds have passed". Re-injecting life and economic vitality
into these places is more significant to people than new-build
developments, it is symbolic and re-enthuses people as they do
not have to live in the shadow of past glories.
2. THE ROLE
2.1 English Heritage is now much more aware
that if they are to be conserved heritage buildings must have
economically sustainable uses capable of generating sufficient
income for their maintenance. English Heritage is actively promoting
this approach through various initiatives and RTH has worked with
it on particular buildings. We have concluded that it is essential
that English Heritage is able to offer grant aid to promote the
regeneration of heritage buildings, as it is often among the first
to see a building's potential, and its early financial support
can lever in further public and private investment. It is also
our experience that local authorities and developers can progress
projects for heritage buildings to an advanced stage before they
seek advice from English Heritage, when it is too late for this
to be of maximum benefit. Local authorities must ensure that English
Heritage is accorded the opportunity to contribute advice before
development proposals become too far advanced.
2.2 Local Authorities often do not recognise
the economic potential of heritage buildings, particularly in
economically deprived areas where there is considerable pressure
on them to promote regeneration. They are often willing to sacrifice
historic buildings in order to promote other forms of regeneration,
or to grant planning permission for inappropriate uses. Local
authorities and RDAs are often guided by "short-termism"
and the need to produce early outputs, and do not recognise the
value that heritage buildings and locations can offer for longer
term economic, social and environmental regeneration. Accordingly,
too many regeneration programmes involving heritage buildings
are characterised by the need to deliver short-term outputs and
maximum economic returns, with a consequent adverse effect on
the heritage. Economic agencies and local authorities must be
encouraged to take a long-term view of regeneration and to wait
for benefits. This will deliver better quality projects. What
delivers an early result in the short-term often is not the most
pragmatic solution for the long-term.
2.3 Local authorities have heavy statutory
responsibilities with respect to the care and re-use of heritage
buildings, but rarely have sufficient numbers of trained conservation
staff with the necessary experience and expertise. Often there
are only one or two staff who lack the resources and seniority
needed, and have insufficient influence within their authority
where they are often outgunned by their planning and regeneration
colleagues. Indeed there are many local authorities with important
heritage buildings being regenerated that lack any dedicated conservation
staff and, accordingly, are unable to monitor and guide construction
work. This means that severe damage can occur to buildings and
the final schemes fall short of the appropriate quality. There
is a need for more "joined-up working" within local
authorities between Economic, Planning and Conservation staff
concerned with heritage projects. We have found that Economic
Development staff can get well advanced in their proposals with
developers and RDAs before seeking conservation advice. It then
becomes more difficult to reverse inappropriate proposals, with
consequent damage to buildings. This indicates that local authorities
now more widely understand the potential these buildings offer
for regeneration but fail to appreciate the need for construction
work to respect the character and structure of the buildings.
Accordingly the heritage environment is being cumulatively degraded.
2.4 We believe that local authorities must
strengthen their conservation resources both to promote the re-use
of heritage buildings and to ensure that they are re-used in an
2.5 There are many heritage buildings in
private ownership where the owners recognise their development
potential but fail to take steps to promote projects. Buildings
lie empty or under-used and in decline, while owners wait for
a rising market to increase their value. This can impede, or in
some cases completely sterilise, regeneration. We have several
cases where local authorities recognise the potential these buildings
have and, indeed, have participated in developing regeneration
projects for them, but are still reluctant to tackle the owners,
either through negotiation or the use of statutory powers such
as Urgent Works Notices and Compulsory Purchase. Local authorities
should be strongly encouraged to use their statutory powers in
these cases, and RDAs empowered to offer funding support for acquisition.
2.6 British Waterways own a considerable
number of heritage buildings and some of their policies with respect
to their use are very positive. However, BW tends to see these
buildings for their economic potential and does not recognise
itself as the temporary custodian of an important part of the
Nation's heritage. BW is not a commercial company with private
assets but, rather, holds heritage assets in trust and, accordingly
should be required to deliver regeneration schemes of the highest
quality. BW is still driven by the need to maximise economic returns
and promotes projects that over-develop buildings, have inappropriate
uses, or involve schemes that do not deliver a sufficiently wide
social benefit. Some of their alterations to heritage buildings
fall short of what they could deliver, reflecting a lack of conservation
skills within their organisation.
2.7 We feel that British Waterways recognises
the economic potential of its heritage stock and is developing
proposals for its re-use. However, it is still driven by an "estate
agent mentality" that seeks early economic yields rather
than the need to develop a quality scheme that may take longer
to reach maturity. For example, in Wakefield we found that the
regeneration of the Waterfront, which was initiated by proposals
for British Waterway's Navigation Warehouse, is now driven by
a focus on new-build, which is now progressing quickly. However,
the listed heritage buildings remain untouched, and we suspect
will be the last elements to be progressed.
2.8 British Waterways, like a number of
other public agencies, functions effectively in commercial partnerships.
However, we have found it to be very poor at working in a collaborative
way with the community and non-commercial partners on a regeneration
scheme. We have found it to be both bureaucratic and autocratic.
British Waterways does not recognise the community's right to
have a direct stake in regeneration initiatives involving heritage
buildings and sees it as a hurdle to be overcome rather than a
3. WHETHER THOSE
3.1 Many RDAs only recognise buildings as
of heritage value if they are listed and fail to see the importance
of unlisted older buildings. Accordingly, they have difficulty
in incorporating the character of an area, as reflected in the
older buildings, into their regeneration schemes, preferring to
opt for new build as the most straightforward and cheapest option.
This contributes to the spread of often poorly designed and uniform
developments that do not reflect local character, building materials
or history. This is leading to the endless replication of characterless
architecture that undermines the Nation's sense of place.
3.2 Some private sector schemes have damaged
heritage buildings, often through inappropriate uses and alterations.
There are insufficient good conservation architects to project-manage
all the work going on that involves heritage buildings and there
is a need for more and better professional training in this professional
specialism, better guidance on alterations, and better policing
of work by local authorities. This underlines the need for more
dedicated staff resources within local authorities.
3.3 Heritage buildings are often seen by
policy makers as problems rather than opportunities. There is
not enough consultation with communities and heritage organisations,
who often see their value and potential, and are by no means hostile
to change. Public agencies, even yet, do not recognise the legitimate
role that communities have in heritage regeneration projects,
or recognise that communities can maintain and deliver a stake
in a regeneration project. Such involvement confers public endorsement
of the project and guarantees public access. As such it is a key
to long-term success.
3.4 When construction is taking place in
a historic environment we have found that developers fail to recognise
its importance. Inappropriate or overdevelopment is a real problem.
There is often a lack of sensitivity to local materials and design,
and many new buildings do not reflect the local vernacular. In
this way, projects that initially appear to be taking advantage
of the heritage environment end up contributing to their devaluation.
We have found that such developments are too often driven by the
overarching need to meet the financial outputs of investors or
government funded programmes, rather than the need to deliver
a project that also has social and environmental benefits.
4. WHETHER THE
4.1 We consider that the Listing process
is absolutely essential. Whether this power is retained by the
Secretary of State or transferred to English Heritage there is
a need for a national agency with power to spot list. A national
perspective is required because many local authorities see heritage
buildings as obstacles in the way of their other plans. An appeal
process is also required against non-listing and a more open listing
procedure is needed to avoid owners rushing to demolish historic
buildings to prevent possible listing. Legislation should ensure
that buildings cannot be demolished whilst this process is underway.
4.2 We do not think Listing hinders urban
regeneration. On the contrary, we believe that Listing adds value
to buildings and therefore assists in the catalysis of regeneration.
Listed buildings are perceived as having value and status, both
by developers and the community.
5. WHETHER ALL
5.1 Notwithstanding government policy that
empowers government departments and agencies to dispose of heritage
property at less than market value in support of wider economic
objectives, we have found that they still feel driven by the need
to maximise returns and achieve government financial targets.
Too often wider regeneration objectives are lost as a consequence
of pressure to maximise capital receipts. Like private developers,
government departments seek maximum incomes and, therefore, promote
the highest value uses, such as offices, in preference to more
appropriate uses, such as cultural, leisure or workshop uses.
These might make better use of buildings and bring about a better
outcome in terms of economically and socially sustainable outputs.
We have found that government departments often do not promote
mixed-uses, which usually work best in heritage areas and are
inherently more sustainable, with a consequent reduction in the
potential public benefits. This obsession with maximising returns
leads to sterile heritage regeneration schemes. We consider that
public agencies should have a statutory obligation to contribute
to the delivery of agreed balanced regeneration objectives that
reflect wider social goals.
5.2 Government departments should be encouraged
to use their historic assets to promote a wider social policy,
either directly or by granting favourable leasehold terms to organisations
that can contribute towards these goals. In disposing of government
assets, such as large health or defence establishments, it is
essential that the new uses are carefully negotiated with local
authorities to meet wider public policy objectives and not merely
to generate maximum capital receipts. We believe there is insufficient
recognition of the heritage value of many buildings that have
been disposed of by government departments and many have been
needlessly lost. Government departments should be required to
promote agreed regeneration schemes, rather than simply marketing
5.3 Similarly, in commissioning new-build
projects, government departments should be required to achieve
quality design appropriate to the historic environment. Too many
modern government buildings in heritage areas are of the lowest
6. WHETHER FISCAL
6.1 We believe the Listing system can be
streamlined to better meet its objectives but must remain a national
procedure, with spot listing retained as a national power.
6.2 There should be a statutory obligation
for local authorities to have qualified conservation officers
in numbers appropriate to the size of the council and with powers
to direct certain actions on heritage buildings. Smaller local
authorities should be encouraged to pool their resources to give
a critical mass of expertise and experience in a local area.
6.3 VAT exemption for the costs of construction
work on heritage buildings is essential. These issues have been
covered extensively elsewhere. We also support the proposal that
a formula be devised to grant tax relief for the cost of repair
to heritage buildings.
6.4 Government departments should be required
to promote the re-use of their heritage stock as part of wider
regeneration programmes, including using their powers to dispose
or lease buildings at less than market rates.
6.5 Too many government-funded programmes
have very short timescales and do not recognise the complexity
involved with developing competent regeneration proposals, which
require greater preparatory time and money, not least to meet
the Conservation Plan requirements of funders like the Heritage
Lottery Fund. There is also a need to change funding regimes to
recognise that it takes longer to develop plans for heritage buildings.
We support proposals to better coordinate the requirements of
the various public funding programmes, which have different timescales
and information requirements. Complex heritage regeneration projects
must draw upon a variety of funding sources and several have found
that offers have time-expired before they have been able to put
in place funding offers from other sources. Coordination is essential.
6.6 Over much of the country many heritage
buildings can only be regenerated on the initiative of charitable
and voluntary organisations who lack the risk capital to prepare
professional proposals. There is a desperate need for more core
funding for such organisations, eg RTH and BPTs.