An artist's CGI of the Park Hill development, Sheffield © Smoothe Photography/English Heritage

The historic environment is the context within which new development happens.  Major inner city renewal, rural diversification, edge of village development, traffic calming measures: all have the potential to enhance or degrade the existing environment and to generate time- and resource-hungry conflict.  An early understanding of the character and value of the historic environment prevents conflict and maximises the contribution historic assets can make to future economic growth and community well-being.

Conservation-led regeneration encourages private-sector investment both by retaining businesses in an area and by providing an incentive to relocate to it.  Putting resources into a neighbourhood because of the value of what is already there, rather than labelling it as deprived, builds community and business confidence.  So do works to improve the maintenance of the public realm of streetscape and public parks and gardens. 

Understanding how places change, what makes them distinctive and the significance of their history is the key to regeneration.  The historic environment is part of successful regeneration because it contributes to:

  • Investment: Historic places attract companies to locate, people to live, businesses to invest and tourists to visit. Market values in historic areas are higher than elsewhere.
  • Sense of place: People enjoy living in historic places. There is often greater community cohesion.
  • Sustainability: Re-use of historic buildings minimises the exploitation of resources. There is evidence of lower maintenance costs for older houses.
  • Quality of life: The historic environment contributes to quality of life and enriches people’s understanding of the diversity and changing nature of their community.

Planning for regeneration and renewal requires strong, effective partnerships at local and regional level.  Local authorities play a central part in the management of the historic environment.  The Local Authority Historic Environment Services pages give more information about the role of local authorities.

Conservation-led regeneration is successful because places matter to people.  Neighbourhood renewal works because the quality of the places in which people live directly affects their quality of life.  When communities are helped to develop their own sense of what matters for them, and why, the results can transform a neighbourhood and act as a catalyst for further private- and public-sector investment.  

Regeneration and the Historic Environment

Our policy statement Regeneration and the Historic Environment: Heritage as a catalyst for better social and economic regeneration, published in January 2005, sets out the English Heritage approach to regeneration.  It looks at how the re-use of heritage assets is important to sustainable development and helps to retain local character and distinctiveness. 

Heritage and Spin-off Benefits

The heritage and spin-off benefits page (posted in 2008) takes a look at the growing literature of methodology, case studies and evaluations of major programmes of investment in historic assets and their economic, social and environmental benefits to society.

Heritage Works

Heritage Works is a toolkit aimed at all those organisations and individuals engaged in regeneration programmes.  Published in 2006 it is the result of a partnership project between the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the British Property Federation (BPF) and English Heritage and has been produced by Drivers Jonas. 

Coastal Towns

English Heritage has completed and published research on the history and evolution of the English seaside town and its architecture, entitled England’s Seaside Resorts.  Separately, we have also undertaken a project looking at the challenges and opportunities facing local communities and the historic environment in coastal towns.  Regeneration in Historic Coastal Towns (published October 2007) includes case studies showing how the refurbishment and reuse of historic buildings and areas can help create a platform for the revitalisation of the local economy.  An Asset and a Challenge; Heritage and Regeneration in Coastal Towns in England (published October 2007) sets out a number of good practice examples of heritage-led regeneration in English coastal towns.

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An artist's CGI of the Park Hill development, Sheffield © Smoothe Photography/English Heritage