Towns and cities with heritage assets are more appealing places to live, work and visit
Press Release: Monday 17th October 2011
Something in the human psyche makes people enjoy being in historic environments. On Thursday 27th October, delegates attending the Heritage Council Conference Heritage: Inspiring Innovation for Economic Growth will hear David Geddes, from the London office of property advisory company Colliers International, discuss how this means that historic environments in towns and cities play a critical role in nurturing types of business clusters that do not otherwise normally develop and are critical to the quality of life they offer.
Speaking ahead of the Conference, David Geddes said, “It is important that those responsible for planning and regeneration in every town and city across Ireland have a good understanding of its historic environments in their town and city and a plan for making the most of them”.
Geddes has conducted extensive research in the UK into the economic and social effects that historic environments have in towns and cities and has been working on the implications, in Ireland, for Limerick and Waterford.
He states that heritage assets broadly fall into two categories: heritage “landmarks” are prominent structures like cathedrals and historic house that stand out, and heritage “environments” are collections of historic assets, mainly townscapes. Discussion of the impact of heritage invariably focuses on landmarks, but the research undertaken by Geddes suggests that the economic impact of heritage environments is typically at least ten times greater.
A survey of 35,000 people living across the UK found that cities known for their heritage dominated the top ratings with York emerging as the most enticing English destination outside London, and Edinburgh emerging twice as popular as neighbour Glasgow. The research showed that there is even a strong correlation between the number of listed buildings in, and popularity of, the country’s eight largest regional cities, none of which are thought of as being traditional “heritage cities”.
“There is a direct correlation between the number and nature of heritage assets in cities and towns and their appeal as places to live, work and visit”, comments Geddes. “It is not just a case of people liking historic environments, they like the types of activity that takes place in those environments”.
Almost all towns and cities around the world are made up of a ‘mosaic’ of clusters of businesses and activities that benefit from being located near each other. Geddes found that England’s best known historic environments are all predominantly occupied by unique independent businesses or branches of multiples that are different from the norm on high streets, and also all feature a large number of cultural and entertainment uses. By contrast, high streets and shopping centres are, in all cases, dominated by national chains. They play an essential role in serving their communities, but one looks like another and they are not places for recreation.
The research shows that heritage environments are particularly important in nurturing small, unique businesses, and in creating environments where people enjoy spending leisure time.Brighton is an exemplar of this. The research showed that it is tremendously popular, but the reason is not the obvious one that it is by the sea but because it has used its historic environments to create one of the most distinctive shopping and leisure environments in Europe.
“Making the most of historic environments is the only known way of overcoming the blandness of town centres that people so often complain about, the so-called ‘clone town’ effect where every town centre looks alike”, says Geddes.
Heritage is even the key factor in the success of world famous streets like London’s Bond St and Regent St. They attract top rents and shops that are not found elsewhere because modern retailing spaces have been created behind historic facades. That gives them an edge over nearby Oxford Street.
Geddes comments that “These lessons from the UK are totally applicable to towns and cities across Ireland. The long term prosperity of Limerick city centre, for example, is in my opinion entirely reliant on making more of its great historic assets. It should be aspiring over the medium to long term to make O’Connell Street the finest in Ireland, to use the Castle and riverside to create the best riverside park in Europe, and to nurture concentrations of interesting small businesses in the historic areas on the edge of the city centre. It is lucky to have the assets to be able to do that. Now it is a question of making the most of them”.
David Geddes will join a host of other international and national speakers at the Conference to discuss not only how heritage contributes to our identity and economy but how we can sustainably use heritage resources to deliver employment, healthier lifestyles, sustainable tourism and creativity.
Commenting on David Geddes research Heritage Council Chief Executive Michael Starrett said, “Every week in the media we are seeing pictures and coverage of Ireland’s ghost estates in towns and cities across the country. Despite the damage that has been done there are real opportunities for communities to take control and shape a different future for their town or city. This is just one area of discussion scheduled for our Conference on Thursday 27th October. The conference will also focus on businesses that are dependent on our heritage assets for their success and how to ensure a sustainable future for those resources and those that depend on them“.
The Heritage Council Conference entitled “Place as Resource, Heritage: Inspiring Innovation for Economic Growth” takes place on Thursday 27th October in the Royal College of Physicians, Kildare St., Dublin 2. To book a place please email email@example.com or call 056 777 0777. Cost: €50 (to include lunch & reception).
T. 01 703 8604 / 086 384 6630
Head of Communications & Education
The Heritage Council
T. 087 967 6889
Note to Editor
The Heritage Council is the statutory body charged with identifying, protecting, preserving and enhancing Ireland’s national heritage. National heritage includes Monuments, Archaeological objects, Heritage objects, Architectural heritage, Flora, Fauna, Wildlife habitats, Landscapes, Seascapes, Wrecks, Geology, Heritage gardens and parks, and Inland waterways.
Established under the Heritage Act 1995, and operating under the aegis of the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, the Heritage Council provides advice to the Minister, and partners and networks with Local Authorities and a wide range of other organisations and individuals to promote Ireland’s heritage.