The historic environment lies at the heart of our sense of place. It is a social and economic asset which enriches the distinctiveness and quality of the places where we live, work and play.
Change, however, is inevitable and our society today is moulding the historic landscapes of tomorrow.
Understanding a place’s historic character is one of the starting points for deciding its future. The aim of heritage conservation is to manage change in ways that will sustain a place’s heritage values whilst recognising opportunities to steward those values for present and future generations.
The more clearly the heritage values of the place are understood, the easier it is to determine the scale and type of change that is most appropriate and establish guidelines or policies for sustaining its significance.
Historic Characterisation is the term given to a range of techniques that have been developed to guide and inform the sustainable management of change.
It moves beyond individual buildings, archaeological sites and designated heritage assets to provide a more integrated and holistic view of management by considering the historic environment as a whole.
As a tool for managing change, historic characterisation is well suited to regeneration and place making, and to informing a variety of strategic planning and management purposes.
Understanding Place: Historic Environment Characterisation for Planning and Development introduces the practice of historic characterisation, its techniques and their application within the English planning system.
Like the Historic Environment Planning Practice Guide, this document is published as a ‘living draft’ and will be amended and finalised after the consultation process for the New Planning Policy Statement for the Historic Environment (PPS15) is finalised.
For further information, please see Conservation Bulletin 47, which is all about Historic Characterisation.