2007 Yearbook

INSTITUTE OF HISTORIC BUILDING CONSERVATION YEARBOOK 2007 29 I N R E V I E W PAUL JOHNSON – SOFTWARE DESIGN TO HERITAGE ADVICE PAUL JOHNSON is an historic environment consultant with Heritage Conservation Consulting Ltd. Originally trained in IT, my interest in the conservation of historic buildings grew out of renovating old houses in my spare time, and in 2002 I left a successful career as a software consultant to become a self-employed builder, specialising in the maintenance, repair and refurbishment of traditional houses. However, the real turning point came when looking for some conservation guidance I discovered the IHBC Areas of Competence on the web. This document spelled out very concisely the professional I wanted to become. Immediately I made the decision to do everything needed to satisfy the conditions for full IHBC membership, which was quite a lot considering I had been involved in software most of my working life and had no formal qualifications in the built environment. The solution was to undertake a part-time post-graduate diploma in architectural conservation and throw myself into the proactive local civic society, all the while growing a building conservation firm. However, the course and the civic society together had an unintended effect. After just a few months I came to realise my passion lay in the wider historic built environment rather than the traditional building crafts that had first inspired me. A year down the line I found myself trustee and treasurer of the local civic society, elected onto the committee of the North West Association of Civic Trust Societies, a member of the English Historic Towns Forum, member of the British Urban Regeneration Association, and most importantly but quite unexpectedly co-founder of an historic environment consultancy with an architect I met on the course. Quite a leap for someone who had previously managed a software company! With the few months still remaining before I pick up my post- graduate diploma, the new historic environment consultancy already finds itself conducting its first conservation area appraisal. The company represents a vehicle for an exciting new career, advising and working on behalf of local authorities on streetscape improvements, conservation area appraisals, conservation area management plans and conservation- led regeneration schemes. To convey the particular value I see in the IHBC’s holistic approach to conservation, I have opted to highlight here an ongoing project of real personal interest: campaigning for a joined-up approach to maintaining the public realm, in particular highway- related works within historic towns. THE PUBLIC REALM Joined-up thinking is essential for the multi-disciplinary, multi-sector agencies working in the public realm if the result is to be humanly satisfying, socially vibrant and economically successful. Nowhere is this need more apparent than in historic towns. Common sense surely; so why is this joined-up thinking missing within many public-sector authorities and across their designated private-sector contractors, and what can conservation professionals do about it? The problem Highways agencies have a major impact on the public realm. So with traffic a given in most if not all historic towns, it seems ironic that the most powerful agency working in the Opportunities should be taken to limit the need for guardrails and islands by introducing single stage crossings.