The transfer of heritage assets from public ownership can provide a way to maximise the use of historic assets and minimise factors that place heritage at risk, whilst also recognising the relevance of the historic environment to society.
Transfer of publicly owned heritage assets
The issue of asset transfer was identified by the Constructive Conservation and Sustainable Management working group as a way of addressing several of the Heritage 2020 framework priorities, such as new systems of heritage protection, managing heritage at risk and contributing to the growth agenda. It’s also a prime area for collaborative working, for example between local authorities, developers and community groups.
The Heritage 2020 Constructive Conservation and Sustainable Management (CCSM) group have used a Theory of Change Model (developed by the Architectural Heritage Fund) to identify which parts of the asset transfer process are well-covered, and where there are gaps.
Transfer of Heritage Assets – Theory of Change
The Theory of Change (pdf) identifies different activities to ensure that disposals of publicly-owned heritage assets are handled properly and in the best interests of the heritage assets and the communities in which they sit. It shows the outcomes – for society, for clients, for the assets and for government, associated with the activities.
In 2016 a Heritage 2020 consultation tested demand for a package of guidance and support for local authorities, private developers and community groups. Respondents were almost equally divided in their awareness/lack of awareness of available guidance leading the group to conclude that better sign-posting of existing guidance (rather than more guidance) is a priority.
Gaps in advice or support were identified as:
- Guidance, training and access to specialist and project skills, in particular:
- Conservation (for condition assessment, etc.)
- Project/asset management and business planning (esp. for community groups)
- Advice for long-term planning and sustainability
- Clearer advice to help local authorities, private developers or community groups identify the help available to them
- Model examples
- Concrete implications of broader heritage policy (e.g. listed status)
- Advice on meanwhile uses
“Business planning for community groups or charities taking on a heritage asset; considerations for ensuring a site and its operating model remain viable in the long-term; more advice on meanwhile uses; advice to Local Planning Authorities on how to support groups to whom they have divested assets; advice to Local Planning Authorities on when to step in.” (Heritage 2020 consultation response, 2016)
Here are links to some of the organisations that provide information, guidance or advice about asset transfer:
- Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC)
How to Care for Places and People: Towards a common standard in Historic Environment Conservation Services & Skills Summarises a range of measures and indicators on heritage and planning outcome quality.
Why planning authorities must have conservation skills Provides a framework of statutory, regulatory and related considerations.
- Historic England
Historic Environment Local Management Training Programme Provides free training on managing the historic environment for individuals working in local authorities, regional agencies and national organisations.
- Prince’s Regeneration Trust (PRT)
BRICKwork programme The programme originally ran from 2014 to 2018 and the website is now an archive of how-to guides and resources for community groups seeking to rescue historic buildings.