Champion Case Studies
Case studies, like these, can provide helpful insights into the positive benefits of appointing a Heritage Champion. We are always on the look out for more examples of how Champions have contributed to their local area and if you are able to provide your own case study then please contact or call English Heritage on .
Cheshire West and Chester Council
Cllr Hilarie McNae, Heritage Champion for Cheshire West and Chester (CWAC) Council, explains how she has used her role to promote an important local heritage issue
"I attended the national Heritage Champions’ conference in November and heard Chief Inspector Mark Harrison, seconded to English Heritage from Kent Police, speak on Heritage Crime. Afterwards, I asked if he would be willing to come to Cheshire and explain this new initiative. It was important, I felt, to get the support of Cllr Mike Jones, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester (CWAC) Council, to enable our Council to take an early initiative in connection with Heritage Crime. He readily gave his support and assigned an Officer, Ian Marshall, to the project. Together, we organised a local workshop. We had expert advice from Mark Harrison on the agenda, and his thoughts on who should be invited. This Workshop took place in Chester in January and included representatives from Planning, Archaeology, Conservation, Police, Fire Brigade, and Street Scene. The Workshop was very well received and it is our hope to progress to a full-scale conference in Chester later in the year.
Why did I think that this subject was so pertinent to Chester? We, the residents, feel very proud of our built heritage and we want it to be well maintained and appreciated. We recognise that Chester is a city which relies on its heritage to attract national and international visitors. Also, in Chester we have found that our heritage can be a vital factor in securing inward investment and regeneration. All this creates a more vibrant and economically robust platform, which benefits both residents and the fabric of the City. Therefore, we are particularly aware of the need to safeguard the unrivalled assets bequeathed by former generations.
With the development of the Heritage Crime Initiative we feel that crimes against our heritage will become more visible. We anticipate that a new system of recording heritage crimes, using a nationally agreed lexicon, will result in statistics which can be relied upon, and permit meaningful comparisons and an early indication of any hotspots. Cheshire West and Chester signed the Memorandum of Understanding on 18th February, the first Council in the North to do so. Ian and I attended the National Launch in February.
At a forum of all the CWAC civic and history societies we outlined to representatives of the societies what Heritage Crime means to our area and asked their members to become the eyes and ears. We have asked for training from English Heritage for volunteers to be shown how to secure an apparent crime scene and methods of investigation. On April 9th we have Cheshire Archaeology Day. Mark Harrison will be one of the speakers: this will enable us to let some 400-500 participants learn more about Heritage Crime and the ways to prevent it, or to rapidly report suspicious circumstances. We want to capitalise on the interest this will generate amongst those who attend, and will have a plan worked out about how best to utilise their input. For the forthcoming Community Safety Plan the Cheshire Constabulary has carried out a geographical analysis of Heritage Crime and risk assessment, the first of its kind in the country.
I have been able to use my position as Heritage Champion for CWAC to move this subject forward at some speed. Indeed, if CWAC had not possessed a Heritage Champion, who was therefore invited to the November conference, this important subject might not yet have shown up on the local radar, and consequently the protection for heritage assets located within the CWAC area, which will result from the timely launch of the heritage crime initiative- could have been delayed, or might even have never happened.
As you can see from this account, I have been fortunate in obtaining the early support of the Leader of the Council- this was crucial, as was the professional involvement of Ian Marshall, who has been determined to drive this project forward, ensuring that CWAC is in the vanguard of this important initiative."
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council
Tunbridge Wells two Heritage Champions, Cllr Linda Hall and Cllr David Wakefield, identified an opportunity to get local schools more involved in the protection of their local historic environment. Together they devised a project to raise awareness among young children of the richness of their historic built environment, in particular the craftsmanship of the Victorian era.
Both Champions arranged to go into primary schools to discuss their role and to show slides of different local historic shop fronts which had lost their character through modernisation in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The children were then encouraged to record the appearance of more historic shop fronts through drawing, making models and tiles of them and writing about them. Those drawings were exhibited locally at the Town Hall in Tunbridge Wells and prizes were awarded for the best examples.
Through this work, the children not only learnt more about their, often ignored, local heritage and the importance of preserving it through sympathetic restoration, but they also learnt something about the different architectural styles. An interesting by-product was the number of adults who stopped to ask the children what they were doing before admitting that they had never themselves noticed many of the details that the children were drawing. One classroom assistant who had lived in the area all of her life, admitted not to have noticed the shop fronts before.
Northampton Borough Council
In 2007 Cllr Hawkins took on the role of Heritage Champion for Northampton with only a vague idea of what the role would entail. As a back-bencher she had argued that this post would be more properly filled by a Cabinet Member, however it was agreed that her passion for heritage made her the best person for the job. Since then, she has found that her enthusiasm and positive thinking have stood her in good stead.
As a Heritage Champion Cllr Hawkins has found that the greatest impact she can have is through networking with the various community heritage groups, making links, introductions and passing on information about funding sources. The more specialist side to the role has seen her keep a constant watch over the conservation issues that come before Northampton’s Planning Committees.
Northampton has a rich and varied historic environment, while also planning for extensive new housing as part of the Milton Keynes / South Midlands Growth Area. As a member of the Development Corporation Planning Committee she is able to raise the profile of heritage and archaeology by simply “declaring an interest”. She sees herself as very much the champion for retaining existing quality buildings in the process of place-shaping.
Cllr Hawkins represents the Borough Council on the Building Preservation Trust for Delapré Abbey, still on the “At Risk” Register. Here again she has a networking role and ensures that English Heritage is involved. She has also joined a newly constituted Trust to promote access and enjoyment of the town centre’s medieval churches - a superb opportunity to work with the whole the community and raise interest in local history.
Cllr Hawkins was co-opted on to a Council Scrutiny Committee to consider the state of conservation and protection of some of the buildings threatened by development. In making her ‘maiden speech’ in the glorious Victorian Gothic Council Chamber she was part of a successful campaign to promote concern about Northampton’s neglected Castle (a Scheduled Monument).
As Heritage Champion, Cllr Hawkins feels she has a voice that can represent people’s concerns and love for their town and its historic environment. So in her role as Heritage Champion, her ‘private passion’ for heritage is having a real impact on the civic scene.