As part of my PhD research I am currently rolling out a survey designed to be taken by professionals involved in a range of historic environment roles, particularly those who deal with the built heritage, from listed buildings, to historic landscapes, to townscape character.
The survey (which can be found at http://bit.ly/heritageattitudes) aims to assess the range of people who are involved in such work as selection, designation and management of heritage assets, the consideration of planning and heritage consents, to those applying for them, advocating new development, responsible for it’s design, and those who are contracted to work on surveying, recording, investigating, repairing – and even demolishing them. But listed buildings processes are only an example: The opinions of anyone whose work affects or is affected by heritage assets is sought.
The underlying purpose is to consider whether these range of professionals have different views on heritage, different perspectives on the regulations that govern practice, and different principles guiding their work.
This hints at one of the main problems with trying to analyse policy making and implementation for its content – How do we know what principles are underpinning the interpretations of the texts of a particular policy? Who is using it, why, and how?
Heritage – as recognised in various government statements – underpins a great deal of what we consider to be the character of places, their historic context, or local distinctivness. Understanding the broad range of technical elements of the planning policy is therefore a prerequisit of much of the work which goes into the process of building a new housing estate, finding a location for a new windfarm, or even replacing a functional infrasctructure feature.
So what do local authority planners know about heritage? What do architects of modern housing, or civil engineers, know about heritage? What do Tescos’ planning team know about heritage? What do they think about sense of place, significance, or even sustainable development? How would these people interpret the demands and principles of policy differently?
We can all read the 3 pages devoted to the subject in the NPPF, but if we are trained differently, how do we know that we are going to act similarly when asked to interpret policy? What happens when there are 1000s of pages of guidance and local regulations, or when technical training supported by particular professional institutes takes years to complete?
These questions have potentially important ramifications in an era where some local authorities are scrapping all archaeological and heritage services in a bit to cut costs, where developers are loath to increase expenditure on heritage related S106 agreements that eat into ever-shrinking profits, and where government regulation and guidance is becoming more and more sparsley detailed. Professional values and the consequent interpretation of policy are thus key to predicting how heritage will survive when regulation is relaxed.
By designing this survey, I hope to be able to plot how heritage values relate to various sectors which deal with historic assets as part of their work. It will, hopefully be able to show if planners think the same as architects, and the same as historians or archaeologists.
The questions on heritage value are designed with reference to various principles of policy that have existed in the past 20 years. They allow a range of opinions to be articulated relating to various aspects of the historic environment.
It also questions whether legislative frameworks are clear, effective, and adequate for the processes they engage in and will provide some idea as to professional attitude towards the political processes within which heritage is embedded.
If you are interested, please take the survey at http://bit.ly/heritageattitudes.
Your reponses will be of great value to my work and your time is most appreciated.