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Heritage Counts 2009

Heritage makes you feel more positive about your local area - new evidence - plus heritage sector reports bumper year for visitors

Robust evidence that heritage can have an impact on wider social issues such as people's sense of well-being and community cohesion was revealed yesterday (Wednesday 21 October) by English Heritage.

The new research is described in Heritage Counts 2009, the annual report on the state of the historic environment, published by English Heritage on behalf of the whole heritage sector.

The report also reveals that England's heritage has had a bumper year with visitor numbers far higher than expected despite less than perfect weather.

The Government recently acknowledged the impact of the design and condition of places on crime levels, social inclusion and regeneration in its World class places: The Government's strategy for improving quality of place. However, until today there has been no solid evidence of a link between living in a historic area and how content and connected we feel to that place.

Do you feel proud of where you live? Do you care about what your area looks like? Do you feel you belong? These were some of the questions asked in a national survey commissioned by English Heritage from Newcastle University's Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (along with its International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies plus Bradley Research and Consulting) to explore the role that the historic environment plays in creating a stronger sense of place.

Sense of place refers to the notion of self-esteem derived from where one lives and affinity to the local community. The research revealed today shows that:

  • the historic environment has a significant and positive relationship to sense of place
  • adults who live in more historic areas are likely to have a stronger sense of place, other relevant factors being equal
  • both young people and adults who are more interested in the historic environment are more likely to have a stronger sense of place, all other factors being equal
  • adults and young people who cite a local building or monument as special are likely to have a stronger sense of place, other things being equal.

Baroness Andrews, Chair of English Heritage, said: "This evidence shows without a doubt that our historic environment adds to the sum of human and community happiness.  The task of English heritage - and all the agencies which care for and promote our historic environment - is to work with local authorities and communities to make sure that everyone enjoys the benefits that this engagement can bring."

Prof Mike Coombes of Newcastle University said: "The research has produced the first robust statistical answer to the question of whether historic buildings are important to people and their communities. We have found that living in an area with more historic buildings has an impact -- along with being interested in the built environment -- in strengthening people's sense of place. A strong sense of place is very widely seen to help people's well-being and also to be important for the social cohesion of communities. In this way the research gives robust evidence of social benefits fostered by the historic built environment."

Visitor numbers and other important points from Heritage Counts 2009

  • While there was a small drop in visitor numbers at National Trust and English Heritage Sites in 2008/09 compared to 2007/08, overall visitor figures to historic properties were up in 2008 on 2007 (2%) and gross revenue was also up 6% (Visit Britain). In 2009 visitor numbers at historic sites have continued to grow with more than 11 million people visiting National Trust pay-for-entry sites between April-August (excluding the August bank holiday), up by 18% compared to the same time last year, and 30% up at English Heritage sites (April–August 2009 compared to April-August 2008). It seems that heritage is more appreciated and its values even more appealing during a recession.
  • The number of decisions on planning applications and applications for listed building, conservation area and scheduled monument consents is down on 2007/08. This is linked to the recession. It is interesting to note that decisions on planning applications (down 18% on 2007/08) have fallen more significantly than decisions on conservation area consents (down 3%) and listed building and monument consents (both down 10%). This is probably related to the fact that in the current climate, individuals and companies are more likely to modify existing buildings and structures than .take on new building projects.
  • The heritage sector has successfully met the Public Service Agreement (PSA) target for 2005/08 to increase participation rates among black and ethnic minorities (50.7% to 57.3% from 2005/06 to 2007/08).
  • The launch of the Heritage Lottery Fund's £5 million Skills for the Future programme and English Heritage's planned bid to the Government's Future Job Fund is evidence that the sector is working hard to offer high quality placements for young people in the recession.
  • Heritage Open Days was again a success this year. Approximately one million people visited 4,100 venues throughout the course of the four day event. Of 350 visitors interviewed, 84% thought that it had made them feel more part of their local community and 88% considered that they had been made more aware of their shared heritage.

Heritage Question Time

For the first time, heritage leaders are inviting those who work in the sector and members of the public to put questions to them at an event styled on the popular BBC Question Time programme. BBC presenter Martha Kearney will chair the debate tonight, Wednesday 21 October between Heritage Minister, Margaret Hodge, Baroness Andrews, Chair of English Heritage, Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Anthea Case, Chair of Heritage Link, Tom Dyckhoff, journalist and broadcaster and Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust. Video’s of the event, plus a discussion forum enabling the debate to be continued on-line, will be available from Thursday 22 October at www.english-heritage.org.uk/heritagequestiontime

Notes to Editors

For the whole Heritage Counts 2009 report, including case studies, photographs and regional summaries, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/heritagecounts

The heritage sector is represented by Historic Environment Review Executive Committee (HEREC). The following organisations are represented:
Black Environment Network
Church of England
Civic Society Initiative
Council for British Archaeology
Country Land and Business Association
Department for Culture Media and Sport
English Heritage 
Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College
Institute for Archaeologists
Heritage Link
Heritage Lottery Fund
Historic Towns Forum
Historic Houses Association
Historic Royal Palaces
Institute of Historic Building Conservation
Joint Committee of National Amenity Societies
Local Government Association
Museum, Library & Archives Council
National Trust

For further press information, please contact: Beth McHattie, Head of Media, English Heritage Corporate Communications on 020 7973 3254 or 07850 608994 beth.mchattie@english-heritage.org.uk or Ellie Hughes 020 7973 3250 ellie.hughes@english-heritage.org.uk

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