The online resource for the historic environment

1.07 Conservation strategy

To assist your understanding of this Unit see BS 7913: 2013:
Section 5 "Using significance as a framework for managing the historic environment": paras 5.1 to 5.9 inclusive. This will be particularly informative when using this Unit.
Section 6 of BS 7913: 2013 "Significance as part of operational care and other interventions".

“such documents [conservation plans] should flow from a common thinking process – understanding, assessment of significance, analysis of issues or vulnerability and policies for retaining significance. As long as understanding precedes action, the process will work well…if management or development proposals are defined without understanding, there is a strong possibility that significance will be at risk.”
Clark, K (2001) Informed Conservation .

“the value of the site should be defined, and a philosophy to guide all interventions should be established.”
Bell, D. Technical Advice Note 8 Historic Scotland

“The conservation policy appropriate to a place must first be determined by an understanding of its cultural significance and its physical condition.”
ICOMOS Australia (1981, 1999 edn) Burra Charter

A disturbing conclusion in a recent research paper under the joint authorship of Dann, Worthing and Bond was that:

“Conservation principles, aims and policies are rarely explicitly developed or disseminated within the majority of organisations.”

The establishment, through thorough research, of cultural and historical significance of a building, place or artefact informs and underpins intervention and management strategy. It facilitates a structured approach to intervention work and assists in ensuring that conjecture does not influence the process. It will have been established at the investigative stage of the work what is of vital value to the protection of significance, what (as a result of detailed analysis and in the absence of subjective response) is less important and what deterioration or decay processes are involved and how these need to be addressed in order to protect significance.

The importance of investigation of significance cannot be over emphasised as it underpins all other decisions and informs the preparation of any Conservation Plan. See also BS 7913: 2013 sections 5, 6 & 7. These sections offer useful guidance on intervention strategy/management.

Principles and ethics of conservation philosophy, together with assessment of significance, should be synthesised in the conservation plan. The plan will address long-term strategies for the site’s survival.

Fundamentally the principles of conservation may be simply stated as follows:

  • Minimum loss of authenticity
  • Minimum intervention
  • Minimum loss of fabric
  • Reversibility
  • Absence of deceit, or, honesty of intervention

Consequently, the Conservation Plan absorbs these principles and, together with the significance study, aims to eliminate a conjectural response to works of intervention.

An example of conservation plan structure may be seen in Fig 3, The Conservation Plan Process diagram. See appendix 5 “Conservation Plans – a benefit or a burden." Clark, K. See also TAN 8 fig 1 page 34 Diagram of basic conservation activities to indicate how assessment and statement of significance fits into conservation strategy.

Further reading
Clark, K (2001) Informed Conservation English Heritage (Chapter 6)
Englsh Heritage (xxx) Managing Historic Buildings and Sites English Heritage.
Fielden, B & Jokilheto, J. (1993) Management Guidelines for World Cultural Heritage Sites ICCROM
Historic Scotland (2000) A Guide to the Preparation of Conservation Plans
Chitty, G & Baker.D (ed) (2002) Managing Historic Sites and Buildings: Reconciling Preservation and Presentation Routledge
BS 7913: 2013 Guide to the conservation of historic buildings.

What factors, management decisions and processes might usefully be informed by the preparation of a conservation plan for a building with access by the public?

You may wish to consider short, medium and long term planning for expenditure on essential works of maintenance and repair, improvements etc. Assume that the building is funded from entrance charges; some lottery funding might be available.

You may wish to consider the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Power) of Building Regulations together with requirements fo periodic maintenance, improvements to services installations including upgrades to fire precautions, security installations etc. [NB: Part L applicable to England and Wales]

In respect of an historic building, what principles are you likely to use in determining how any works of intervention will be designed, planned and incorporated?

You may wish to consider the fundamental tenets of conservation philosophy i.e. that only minimal intervention shall take place with only minimal loss of authenticity and that the intervention works should be reversible.

Reflect on how international charters influence/inform the decision process

See also:
Kent R (1998) Disability Access Provisions Building Conservation Directory, Tisbury
Jackman, P and Passey, H (1998)The Sleeping Policeman Building Conservation Directory, Tisbury
Ashley, M (1998) Programming Repairs Building Conservation Directory, Tisbury