Conservation of the built environments : an assessment of values in urban planning
The ethos and practical application of conservation has evolved from a concern with preserving isolated fragments of archaeological importance to enhancing the general urban fabric through land use planning. Responding to successive threats and pressures for change has furnished professional practice with a cumulative accretion of justificatory principles and values which are often taken as self-evident norms supporting the formation and application of policy. While some perceive this as a strength, others highlight the weakness engendered by such a diverse and potentially contradictory set of values. lt is the exposition of these underlying tensions which forms the basis for this thesis. Approaching the study of conservation planning holistically, a conceptual framework of ten themes was developed from the existing literature to provide both a theoretical and a practical strategy with which to analyse the subject. A two-tier empirical study explored the value directions underlying the national policy climate and those manifest in the practical implementation of conservation in two local planning authorities' practice. The findings challenge many of the assumptions supporting conservation. There is cogent evidence to suggest that conservation is suffering marginalisation in planning, through professional attitudes, procedural emphases and a lack of strategic support for conservation's added value. These perceptions are influenced by the interpretation of value in the built environment, whereby the recognition of environmental and cultural context remains under-developed against a concentration on valuing independent artefacts. Furthermore, whilst relying on widespread popular support for conservation, this focus divorces conservation from lay perceptions of broader environmental value. Such a relatively exclusive practice may have undermined active political support for conservation. Ironically at a time when national policy emphasises conservation's contribution to sustainability and urban regeneration, the practical exclusivity of conservation may actually hamper realising its wider potential.