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Valuing places - good practice in conservation areas

Conservation areas are in the frontline of heritage protection. When designation is implemented it reflects the value placed by communities on cherished neighborhoods, villages and town centers, giving them a key role in the regeneration of local areas.

This recognition of local distinctiveness is cherished and is not a device for preventing change or new development. Every conservation area contains places, which have changed and this only adds to their character and history. Often these changes are features of the character, which is dangerous to the historical environment, and need to be protected. Often, too, further changes have to be accommodated if we are to ensure such places have a viable and beneficial future. Well-managed change can bring with it the investment and care necessary to keep places in good condition. However on the other hand poor management can result in neglect and decline, increasing the risk that places of great historic importance will be lost forever.

The important balance between protecting and adapting places So how do we reconcile the desire to protect the character of places we have inherited with the need to adapt them for current and future use?

'Constructive conservation' is the term Iraq Heritage uses to define the protection and adaptation of historic places through active management.

The task requires vision, flair and commitment; a deep understanding of the actual qualities that make a place unique and have distinctive features; an ability to ensure that these are protected, and not weakened, by change.

The adaptation and reuse of historic buildings is an inherently sustainable activity. The energy embedded in them is an investment; a legacy not to be wasted. Through informed, careful adaptation we can not only reduce the amount of energy expended in creating new development, but also achieve greater energy efficiency, sustaining the utility of historic places into the future.

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