2015 Yearbook

18 Y E A R B O O K 2 0 1 5 monuments. In Australia, the Burra Charter carried this forward with an emphasis on the ‘cultural significance of place’. If you were to name which US city was voted in 2012 ‘LGBT City of the Year’, it probably wouldn’t be Salt Lake City. But while Utah is dominated by the Mormons, Salt Lake City isn’t. It has a far more diverse cultural, ethnic and religious constitution than Utah as a whole. The challenge there, familiar to anyone who operates in the UK or European context, is to understand and protect its diverse heritage against development pressures which seek to maximise returns on sites in historic areas. Jo Lintonbon looks at Saltaire, a world heritage site which is guarded by a world heritage steering group tasked with protecting and conserving its ‘Outstanding Universal Value’. The principal aim is to make sure that this heritage is sustainable – as the Venice Charter recognised, places need to be economically viable to be successful. A new management plan, with Jo on the steering group as the ICOMOS representative, is due to be published at much the same time as this article (Spring 2015). Diversity in a wider context is tackled by James Webb, who looks at characterisation as a way of capturing the diversity of place. While conservation area appraisals are necessarily limited to areas that have been formally designated, characterisation covers areas which are not necessarily ‘special’ but still evoke a sense of place and community. Arguably, this is paralleled by the current emphasis being given to ‘non-designated heritage assets’ in some notable planning decisions, including a recent one on the Welsh Streets in Liverpool. The houses in question were neither listed nor in a conservation area but the planning decision recognised that they still had an important social and cultural identity which was worth preserving. As Jonathan Taylor points out, many of the traditional agricultural buildings in Snowdonia National Park are likewise unlisted but integral to the identity of the wider area. Their protection, however, is further complicated by redundancy and the difficulty of finding sustainable new uses for structures that are typically small, isolated and were constructed using local skills that may have largely disappeared. The challenge of saving these vulnerable buildings is being addressed by mobilising the diverse skills that characterise conservation today, drawing on the energy and expertise of archaeologists, conservation officers, craftspeople, owners and others. Diversity, then, is a question of people as well as places and for our heritage to have a secure future, we need to ensure that the widest possible demographic is given the opportunity to appreciate and interact with it. Heather Jermy points out that while the battle for physical accessibility has largely been won, the battle for intellectual and other forms of access continues. Sometimes, too, it has to be accepted that physical access can’t be provided for everyone. At La Ronde near Exmouth, Devon, a 360-degree virtual tour of the delicate shell-encrusted gallery overcomes the problems of the site’s physical inaccessibility and sensitivity. Because the tour can be viewed online it provides a window on this unique treasure that is available around the world. Conservation does not have a narrow focus. While it can be a laser beam on an appropriate mortar mix for a brick wall, it is also a floodlight on an entire area where, in order to gain a long-term and sustainable future, its history, development and character need to be properly understood. We need culturally and physically diverse places to flourish and grow. Nairn might even have been pleased at the way things are going. Paul Butler, membership@ihbc.org.uk Craft skills training run by Snowdonia National Park Authority as part of a townscape heritage initiative (Photo: Stone Roof Association)