Last edited 18 Feb 2021

Principles of conservation


[edit] Introduction

Conservation is concerned with the integrated informed understanding, sustainable care and appropriate renewal and development of the historic environment.

Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance’ is a document produced by Historic England, which provides information for local authorities, property owners, developers and professional advisers.

It identifies six ‘high-level’ principles of conservation:

[edit] The historic environment is a shared resource

This principle proposes that the historic environment is valued by people as part of their shared cultural and natural heritage. The value of this heritage represents the public interest in places, regardless of ownership. In safeguarding the historic environment, and thereby protecting public interest, the use of law, policy and public investment is justified.

[edit] Participation in sustaining the historic environment

Public awareness and understanding of their shared heritage should be achieved through learning about sustaining the historic environment by informed and active participation.

Different generations and communities will perceive heritage’s values in different ways, and awareness and understanding of this should be raised through learning. Specialist knowledge and skills should be developed, maintained and passed on as a means of sustaining the historic environment.

[edit] The significance of places must be understood

A place can be considered as such if it is a fixed part of the historic environment with a distinctive identity that is perceived by people. The significance of a place in terms of values tends to grow in strength and complexity over time, as understanding and perceptions evolve.

Decisions about a place’s future can only be informed by understanding and articulating its values and significance. Any protection, such as statutory designation, is determined by the degree of significance.

[edit] Management of significant places is necessary to sustain their values

Change in the historic environment is inevitable. Conservation is the process of managing change so as to best sustain its heritage values.

If understanding of the past is increased, or particular heritage values are revealed or reinforced, then intervention may be justified. It is important though that any resulting harm is decisively outweighed by the benefits.

[edit] Change decisions should be reasonable, consistent and transparent

The exercise of statutory controls should be governed by proportionality. The least harmful means of accommodating conflicting interests should be sought. Where conflict is unavoidable, the weight given to heritage values in making the decision should be proportionate to the place’s significance and the impact of the proposed change on that significance.

[edit] It is essential to document and learn from decisions

It is crucial that records of decision justifications and actions are accessible for analysis and reference. The effects of, and responses to, change should be regularly evaluated by managers of significant places, with the results used to inform future decisions.

Where any loss is the direct result of intervention, the costs of the work should be borne by those who benefit from the change, or, if it is in the public interest, whose role it is to initiate such change.

[edit] Significance’ and ‘historic values

Historic England suggests that at the core of these principles lies the idea of ‘significance’. This is the collective term for all the heritage values attached to a place, i.e. the sum total. There are four different categories to describe how people value historic places:

  • Evidential value: The potential of a place to provide evidence about historic activity.
  • Historical value: An illustrative or associative way in which historic people, events and aspects of life can be connected to the present through a place.
  • Aesthetic value: The sensory and intellectual stimulation drawn by people from a place.
  • Communal value: The meanings and associations of a place for the people who relate to it.

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[edit] External resources

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