Tuesday, 17 August 2004

Valuing local significance There's been a fair spread of well-illustrated and well-resourced publications about place and space in recent months, especially from organisations like CABE and CABESpace. And that's great because it gives us a real sense of being part of a movement with big messages; although sometimes it's difficult to remember which report is which, and what they said. Now here's a rather understated publication - old-fashioned design, no colour pics - from CPRE, called Recharging the power of place: valuing local significance, produced by CPRE with the National Trust and Heritage Link, and in an unassuming way it also hits the button. Especially the sub-title. A few years ago I recall running a workshop at ACRE's annual Rural Life conference, on neighbourhoods in the network society, and getting a very clear message that often what rural communities valued most about where they live is a sense of identity, belonging in a particular place that can be distinguished from other places. Where that sense of identity does not exist - in rural, urban or suburban contexts - it makes sense to have a go at stimulating it. And quite rightly, this report's author, Flora Gathorne-Hardy, puts serious emphasis on community engagement in that process. The report calls for:local communities' experience, knowledge and views about their local environment to be at the heart of decision-making; widespread use of consultation techniques that engage people in planning the future of their areas; landscape and townscape characterisation to be an integral part of planning; a conservation-led approach that recognises the value in assessing what we have, before deciding what to change; and recognition and protection for locally valued heritage within the new planning system and Heritage White Paper.Press release is here. Report is here. Summary is here. The image above is nothing to do with the report itself, but a nice example of local identity and the power of place, that I happen to have: it's a wonderful covered market in Porto Alegre, Brasil, a fabulous and very practical old building that buzzes with life.

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