What is the value of heritage and the historic environment?


It’s a difficult question to answer, isn’t it? It’s even more of a challenge to quantify and justify this value in numerical terms. This, however, is exactly the task that the latest Heritage Counts report set out to accomplish. But, what were the study’s findings?

Since 2002, the Heritage Counts reports have helped draw our attention, not only to those developments of particular significance within England’s heritage sector, but also to some of the most important trends affecting this sector.

In addition to this, the 2014 edition focusses even more specifically on proving the worth, value and impact that heritage can bring to us – not only culturally and socially, but also economically and in terms of national welfare.

The importance of the Heritage Counts reports

Although many people (ourselves at Renovation Insurance Brokers included) agree that preserving and promoting British heritage and sites of historic importance is of great value, we accept that there’s still a need for the benefits of such activities to be quantified.

This has been the case in particular over the past few years in the wake of recession, as government finance and public sector resources have become ever more scarce and far harder to secure.

Can heritage really contribute to sustainable development? For me, the better question is: can sustainable growth really exist without heritage playing a part? – Martyn Evan, Cathedral Group

This means that in order to preserve our historic buildings into the future, we need to act now to demonstrate their importance by quantifying their value in numbers. We feel that this year’s Heritage Counts report does just that.

Measuring the impact of heritage

For the purposes of this report, three main areas were focused on.

– Individual impact. What’s the relationship between heritage participation and health and wellbeing? Does engaging with heritage promote feelings of pleasure, challenge, fulfilment, meaning and learning?

– Community impact. How does heritage relate to the issues of citizenship, social capital and community cohesion?

– Economic impact. To what extent does heritage foster job creation and tourism?

Heritage Counts: the positive findings

The main findings of the Heritage Counts report showed some very encouraging results that were easily quantifiable. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the most promising statistics.

– In the Nation Brand Index, Britain ranked 5 (out of 50 countries) in a measure of richness of historic buildings and monuments.

– 87% of people are in agreement that better quality buildings and public spaces can improve quality of life

– Built heritage tourism in the UK provided 134,000 direct jobs and £5.1 billion in economic output.

– 54% of overseas tourists to the UK visited historic buildings.

– The visiting of heritage is worth £1,646 per person per annum.

– 69% agree that heritage sites are of great importance to their local community.


Heritage Counts: areas for concern

Looking at the results of this study, statistics showing that the number of people currently in training to learn to practice heritage-related craft skills is still in decline is cause for concern. This figures is currently ¾ below the level that it was at in 2005-6.

Of further concern is the fact that employment levels have fallen by over 30% since 2006 amongst those working in the local authority historic environment. As pointed out in this report, this is something which, “has major implications for local planning decision making.”

What are you views on the value of heritage?

We at Renovation Insurance Brokers are grateful to be working in an industry which helps individuals maintain their properties to high heritage standards. Working in our line of business, we truly appreciate just how important a role heritage plays in the UK.

We’d be really interested to hear your views on the value of heritage and what you made of this Heritage Counts report. What more do you think should be done to protect the UK’s historic environment?

Photo Credits: Heritage Counts

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