What do we mean by ‘the historic environment’?
The phrase ‘historic environment’
refers to all those aspects of our environment which bear traces of past human
activity. In addition to buried archaeological deposits and standing monuments
and historic buildings, it also encompasses elements such as the street patterns
in our towns and villages and rural landscapes of farms, fields, woodland, moors
and wetlands. The historic environment is the evidence of the human past which
survives in the present.
Some elements of the historic
environment are particularly valued and recognised: for example, historic
buildings or archaeological monuments. There is increasing recognition, however,
of the contribution which the broader historic environment makes to the
character and value of a much wider range of the places in which we live and
Certainly, the richness of the historic
environment makes a major contribution to the quality of people’s lives and to
local, regional and national identity – our ‘sense of place’. Increasingly,
working for a sustainable historic environment is seen as of parallel importance
to caring for the ‘green’ environment.
In the urban context, it is important
to recognise that ‘sustainability’ in the historic environment is not aimed
simply at static preservation. Rather, it is a means of managing change, a way
that acknowledges the present and future value of our historical assets and
ensures that they are not sacrificed solely for short-term economic gain.