IHBC Yearboox 2018

R E V I E W A N D A N A L Y S I S 23 SHARED HERITAGE FROM A SOCIAL PERSPECTIVE ANDREW McCLELLAND R EGENERATION HAS been a critical public policy concern in the UK for half a century. In part this reflects the decline of traditional industries and the legacy of vacant and under-utilised land and buildings, many with heritage values. However, regeneration remains the subject of intense debate: how is it best achieved? What is the role of the state? And, crucially, who does regeneration ultimately serve? Indeed, critical aspects of the current developer-led model are the subject of marked criticism in the media and elsewhere. It is charged with directing material gains towards the few, hastening the displacement of local people and otherwise exacerbating socio-economic inequalities (see Further Information, Forrest). Given that the 2008 economic crisis still weighs negatively on a wide range of places, coupled with continuing fallout from austerity measures at local government level, it is unsurprising that a worsening regeneration policy context is identified in the UK (see Further Information, Reeve and Shipley, 2014). These debates necessarily implicate the historic environment, particularly as the heritage sector strives to embrace pluralistic agendas and societal challenges, ranging from social cohesion to environmental sustainability. However, it is apparent that alternative thinking is required to enable the progression of more equitable forms of regeneration that take into account the prospective placemaking role of the historic environment. Heritage has a complicated relationship with regeneration: it is historically associated with gentrification processes and sometimes suffers from the uneven distribution of benefits and costs seen with other economic activities. Perhaps this is most clearly exhibited in places experiencing tensions from touristic over-development. Nonetheless, celebrated examples of the transformation of historic assets, often as part of wider initiatives in ‘post- industrial’ cities, include St George’s Market in Belfast and Albert Dock in Liverpool. The latter has been recognised as a flagship for waterfront development internationally. While these examples relate to individual sites, the Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), is the most prominent heritage-led regeneration programme in the UK. THI SCHEMES Launched in 1998, the THI is a multidimensional grant programme targeted at areas with a high concentration of heritage assets and issues of disrepair and social deprivation. Millions of pounds have been invested through the initiative in several hundred schemes ranging from the large-scale Merchant City THI in Glasgow to Llanrwst in rural north Wales, leveraging in millions more from the private sector and other grant-giving bodies. Longitudinal research into THIs undertaken by Oxford Brookes University (see Further Information, Reeve and Shipley, 2013, 2014) provides insights that can inform strategic thinking on effective and progressive heritage regeneration efforts. It is worth reiterating some of the key findings before considering another contemporary model of economic development. Sixteen THI case study schemes were evaluated against four key indicators corresponding with the HLF’s intended goals: improving townscape appearance, enhancing quality of life, engendering economic The award-winning St George’s Market, Belfast was transformed from dereliction in the late 1990s and remains one of the city’s favourite attractions (All photos: Andrew McClelland)