Sam Weaver is a Media and Communications intern at the National Trust. Over the next few months he will be following the politics of preserving our heritage. Check out last weeks post here
It is a common misconception that listed buildings or properties with a historic nature can be a barrier to development.
In fact, property development and preservation can go beautifully hand-in-hand. These are the following economic benefits that we can reap from preserving our old buildings.
- Business thrives in older buildings
To start, preserving an existing property can be cheaper and more efficient than building from scratch.
More importantly, certain businesses thrive within premises of historic value. In an English Heritage report, they have considered converted industry buildings ‘can provide occupiers with large, quirky, open spaces that are valued for their uniqueness and creative ambiance’.
In another example, Hartwell House which is owned by the National Trust has reinvented itself as a hotel. The grade 1 listed building has a long and colourful past, which includes becoming a refuge of King Louis XVIII of France during the Napoleonic Wars. Its relationship with international politics remains alive with it hosting several international summits and meetings.
These conversions can sometimes achieve a novelty value for the business. Oxford Castle, which was used as prison until 1996, was converted into a hotel. Its prison-esque interior is still apparent.
More importantly, businesses provide protection for historic buildings. Essentially they finance the conservation work that ensures they live and long and happy life.
- Older buildings have indirect economic benefits to the local economy
It isn’t just the businesses within the properties that prosper from heritage conservation, it is evident the wider community also feel the benefits. If development is done properly and the building’s original ascetic is maintained, it increases the quality and value of the local surrounding. This has the following effects:
- It increases nearby property prices
- Invites more business into the area
- Invites more people and tourists which therefore increases the income for surrounding business
One sucesseful example is Gloucester Docks. The once stagnant and dormant industrial hub has gone through a remarkable regeneration thanks to clever planning. In its heyday, these warehouses used to be filled with industrial activity, now they host a range of shops, restaurants and apartments.
- Provides employment and supports skills/trades
Besides the cultural benefits from the historic buildings, providing conservation projects injects a huge amount into the local economy. In the case of the National Trust alone, it employs thousands of people around the country to preserve and maintain its heritage.
In some cases old skills are being revived. When old buildings are involved, old skills are needed. These days there is a shortage of these traditional skills, which include carpentry and masonry.
One venture the National Trust partakes in, is the Traditional Building Skills Bursary Scheme. With the support from other heritage organisations such as English Heritage and the National Heritage Training Group, this scheme offers apprenticeships in these traditional trades.
Not only are people paid, which injects money into the economy, they also learn valuable skills and trades.
Samuel Weaver is a Media and Communications intern at the National Trust.
He is a recent History graduate from the University of the West of England. When not selling sausages in a deli, he usually occupies himself by researching and blogging on our nation’s more overlooked heritage.