Heritage: Is it the Friend or Enemy of Sustainable Regeneration?

Partisan hosts a regular, fortnightly breakfast roundtable event for business leaders and professionals connected to the built environment.

At our most recent event, the focus was on heritage, regeneration and sustainability, and what these fundamental aspects of development mean in the real world.

What is the Meaning of Heritage?

Heritage is all around us, but this ubiquity threatens to drain it of meaning.

If we talk about Manchester’s industrial heritage, for example, what do we really mean?

Is it the mills and their workers captured in the paintings of LS Lowry, or the North West’s history of textiles and various fortunes built on cotton?

The city also celebrates its pop culture, and the heritage of Factory records.

But how do any of these things impact on regeneration?

Are Greater Manchester’s mills simply set to become contemporary dwelling spaces, and if so, to what degree will their preservation impact on their practical value as homes?

Is adaptation detrimental to good design, if there are restrictions on modernising older buildings?

It comes back to what heritage means. It is about more than bricks and mortar. It is also to do with people, and the cultures they form when living in specific areas.

One critical aspect of sustainability should be supporting these communities, not just the buildings they live in.

Is Sustainability the Heritage of the Future?

If we accept that heritage is a cultural thing, and therefore comprises more than just the physical shells of once-functional buildings, then the culture we build now will become the heritage of the future.

This is why sustainability is so vital in regeneration, because the aim of regeneration should be to create something that lasts, that becomes something future generations can benefit from.

What are the new opportunities for town planning? Does a post-Brexit landscape where the traditional high street is faltering provide opportunities for a more individual approach to regional town centres?

Rather than towns being carbon copies of one another, they might draw on more individual characteristics to shape more distinctive future developments.

Making people feel re-connected to a place is the key, drawing on their shared heritage but focusing it on something that is not constrained by the urge to preserve for its own sake.

This requires a boldness on the part of developers and town planners, but such approaches can come up against the constraints of bureaucracy. Often, this ends up with restoration becoming the dominant consideration, rather than adapting structures for contemporary needs.

Is Development in Manchester Levelling Out?

The Deloitte Manchester Crane Survey 2020 reports a slight reduction in new starting developments in 2019 in Manchester.

However, the number of schemes completed is at its highest level since 2006. The volume of office space that is under construction currently exceeds two million square feet, for the second year running.

This begs the question, is the city reaching peak development, but also, is this the right kind of development?

Can regeneration connect with communities at grassroots level, drawing on Manchester’s industrial heritage to create sustainable developments of the future?

Heritage as an Asset with a Purpose

To merely pay lip service to heritage is to fail to realise its potential in regenerating town centres.

Similarly, to only see heritage as bricks and mortar is a failure of vision.

Reinventing and repurposing older structures can support regeneration, but only if there is a clear understanding of the end-user, and how these buildings will fit in with vibrant local communities.

Our Guests This Time

The guests at Partisan’s breakfast roundtable event included:

Danny Crump, Broadway Malyan
Kieran Hedges, Eminence Development
Lee Leston-Jones, Cundall
Lisa McFarlane, Seven Architecture
Sarie Mairs Slee, Salford’s Culture & Place Partnership
Peter Rowe, Turley
Tony Skipper, 5Plus Architects
Fiona Tuck, Metro Dynamics

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Eighty Twenty is a once a month invite only event for business leaders within the built environment - hosted by Partisan

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