BCD 2018

126 C AT H E D R A L COMMU N C I AT I O N S C E L E B R AT I N G T W E N T Y F I V E Y E A R S O F T H E B U I L D I N G CO N S E R VAT I O N D I R E C TO R Y 1 9 9 3 – 2 0 1 8 TOWNSCAPE HERITAGE and heritage-led regeneration VICTORIA HUNNS O N THE 50th anniversary of the first conservation areas, the heritage sector has been taking stock of their impact, asking how effective they have been in protecting and promoting high quality townscape through conservation and enhancement of special character, and exploring their impact on economic vitality. Studies have shown, for example, that house prices in England’s 10,000 conservation areas are on average nine per cent higher than elsewhere. However, despite this, 496 conservation areas in England alone were considered to be ‘at risk’ in 2016 (about 6 per cent of the 8,300 surveyed). Poor condition of an area has wider implications for a community than the quality of people’s surroundings. Historic England research has shown that ...negative change can have a real effect upon the way the community thrives or feels about their area. When conservation areas become at risk, this can signify or contribute to an area’s social or economic decline. Many of these risk areas are in town centres with economic and social issues that typically include high levels of social deprivation, crime and a shortage of training and educational opportunities. For many such areas, these problems have been compounded by other factors, including changes in retail provision driven not only by the establishment of out- of-town shopping centres, but increasingly through attitudes to online shopping which are changing the face of the British high street. Many town centres are no longer seen as the primary retail centre in an area and, where there is perceived reduced spending power, are becoming heavily reliant on discount stores and charity shops. In terms of their impact on the townscape, these problems frequently result in high vacancy rates and lack of investment arising from a diminished property market with reduced rental levels and poor investment yields. In these situations, the evidence from many such towns shows that the conservation or refurbishment of historic properties becomes increasingly difficult to implement, as owners are unable to recover the higher cost of ‘heritage’ repairs through increases in property values after completion of the work. This in turn has been shown to lead to poor quality or poorly designed shopfront replacements, distracting and oversized signage, and significant problems with repair and maintenance of the building stock. needed to change local policies and win hearts and minds. Fortunately, since 1999, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) scheme has offered grants of £100,000 to £2 million for the heritage-based regeneration of areas in need of social and economic regeneration. Originally known as the Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), and since 2013 as Townscape Unfortunately, in many cases, the damage began decades ago and, while they aspire to change attitudes and promote economic growth through good design and conservation, many councils and communities face a difficult legacy of decline to overcome. Success requires substantial investment and a positive approach to change. A shortage of resources has reduced many local authorities to responding reactively to requests for change (development or alteration) through the planning system. Increasingly, however, a range of intervention strategies is allowing them to develop, alongside communities, a wish-list for proactive change which incorporates the elements which make each historic place individual and special to local and wider communities. This approach is now being promoted in England by Historic England, which in 2016 launched Heritage Action Zones (HAZ) as a means of working with councils and communities to counter and manage negative change in historic places and develop opportunities for growth based around the unique heritage offer in an area. Embracing heritage-led regeneration is a significant issue, not only in monetary terms, but also in terms of the resources As a prominent Grade II listed corner building at a major junction and on the council’s Buildings at Risk register (below), 3 High Street was one of Keighley’s priority projects. Following extensive repairs, the reinstatement of missing details and the introduction of a more sympathetic shopfront:, the building now makes a significant contribution to the conservation area. (Photos: Bradford Metropolitan District Council)