BCD 2018

36 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 CONSERVATION, RESTORATION and LEGISLATION JONATHAN TAYLOR T HE HISTORIC built environment includes buildings and monuments, streets and spaces, townscapes and landscapes shaped by human activity, and myriads of component parts. Surveys by successive governments have consistently shown that historic places are highly valued by the public, and that our heritage contributes to economic prosperity. However, conflicts can arise between the renovation requirements of some owners and the heritage values of their properties. As the accumulation of even minor changes over the years can have a substantial impact on the quality and significance of the historic environment, these heritage assets are therefore protected to varying degrees through the planning system, and governments of all political persuasions have generally done their best to ensure that protection is effective. There are some variations between the four home nations in the way protection works, but the general principles are the same. Conservation is the term at the heart of all heritage legislation and policy. It is defined as the process of managing change in a way that sustains the component’s historic interest and significance. The term therefore encompasses not only maintenance and repair work, but also a wide range of alterations which may be necessary simply to keep the thing going. Minor changes such as the renewal of old and deteriorated fabric are often essential elements of conservation work, but far more substantial alterations can be too, for example where necessary to ensure that a building can be used, or brought back into use. However, all alterations and other interventions which impact on the historic fabric must be kept to the minimum necessary to ensure that the historic interest and significance of the building and its fabric is protected or, where appropriate, enhanced. Restoration is a term often confused with conservation, but it is the process of restoring a building or component to its condition at a previous point in its history, and it is fraught with ethical concerns. The UK’s conservation movement found its feet in the 19th century challenging the medievalisation of ancient churches in particular, which involved stripping away later work and then recreating missing components in a gothic style of the architect’s choice. These days, any loss of fabric is restricted by the need for special consent under the planning system (see table opposite), and making new work to fake the past is generally resisted. However, where there is clear evidence of an original or earlier design, and no significant fabric is to be lost, careful restoration can often be justified by the need to make the surviving fabric structurally sound. Where there is a need to make an original design more visually complete and legible, restoration is more controversial, and it is generally preferable to find alternative means of enhancing its legibility, so that it is clear which elements are most significant historically, and which are new. Although some fundamentalists argue that heritage can never be enhanced, current legislation and guidance adopts a more holistic approach. A conservation area for example is defined as ‘an area of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’, and Historic England’s current definition of conservation includes the concept of enhancement ‘where appropriate’. Where recently added fabric, for example, conflicts with the character or significance of the original, its removal would generally be considered an enhancement, and therefore permissible in conservation terms. Derby College Library in the Grade II* listed railworks of the Roundhouse Campus (Maber Associates, 2009): conservation is the management of change, here retaining as much of the original as possible while enabling a new use.