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Colin Haylock: Navigating heritage and conservation challenges

Strategies for effective planning and teamwork


As an architect-planner with a passion for quality of place, I have been blessed to have had a career of over forty years working at the interface of planning, design, and conservation and, through career changes, to have enjoyed this extensively from both public and private sector perspectives. I have also been blessed in having had the opportunity to work with, in, or lead great planning and multi-disciplinary professional teams.

This experience has led me to clear conclusions on the critical importance of teamwork within and between professionals and specialisms and of the need to be effective team players to be effective professionals ourselves.

Pressure on local authority resourcing has disproportionately impacted planning and, within this, specialist services including those related to heritage and conservation. Flowing from this I find myself observing situations where experienced conservation planners are being put under more and more pressure and, in less well-resourced authorities, generalist planners are being asked to take on heritage and conservation responsibilities. In the private sector I see specialist and generalist planners having to refine strategies and approaches to respond to a stretched and/or less experienced local authority service.

In developing the material for use in the on-line Heritage and Conservation Masterclasses I deliver for the Institute I reflected carefully on:

  • The challenges this context presented for both experienced specialist conservation professionals and those who are newly involved in this area of planning
  • The challenges for all in maximising the impact of their work through an understanding of and response to the wider planning context
  • Approaches that would help delegates make and convey the most constructive contributions to this wider planning context.

There is a large amount of technical detail and guidance in the Heritage and Conservation area of planning though with possibly not the same level of frequent regulatory change as some other areas of planning. Whilst not ignoring the technical detail, the material I have developed and use with delegates concentrates on lasting principles and key elements of the process. Pre-session briefing packs give background information on case studies. These case studies are then used in interactive small group breakout discussions which help us explore in real contexts the definition of areas including “significance”, “sensitivity” and degrees of “harm” and “public benefit”.

The sessions help develop an understanding of these key components of heritage and conservation work and their interrelationship. We apply this understanding, thinking and exploration to buildings and to conservation areas. In both, we consider the interplay between “pure” conservation objectives and other planning and wider objectives that are likely to be in play. We do this with a view to developing approaches that will allow us to make the most effective input we can through constructive, well considered, justified, and argued contributions to teamwork on the issues involved to help secure the optimal heritage and conservation outcome.

If you would like to know more about heritage and Conservation, join us to the Online Masterclass – Heritage and Conservation that will provide you the opportunity to practice with your peers.

Please search for the next upcoming date in the RTPI CPD Masterclass Calendar.

Completing this RTPI Online CPD Masterclass will add 6 CPD hours credit to your professional development.



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