Progress Report #01

The conservation of the urban landscape heritage in Europe faces a considerable challenge arising from the effects of the banking crisis, austerity measures and increasingly neoliberal government policies. Changes in macro-economic policy impose spending constraints and call for less government intervention through urban planning measures that have traditionally led conservation. These changes entail new approaches in urban governance – and to heritage management – that engage a wider range of private and voluntary sector actors. Approaches vary across countries and cities, but questions have been raised generally about the capacity of heritage planning and management systems that are traditionally dominated by the public sector to first, plan strategically for an uncertain future for the urban heritage, and second, to engage and coordinate other actors in that process.

It is urban planning and governance systems that mediate and coordinate many actors and their competing interests in the urban landscape. Urban planning involves regulation of the built environment but with significant implications for the intangible cultural heritage and collective ‘sense of place’ or place identity. Decisions on the built environment can have critical effects on sense of place, which may be revealed, enhanced or exploited by planning decisions on urban development. Place identity may be swept away completely by planning decisions that reflect other policy priorities and interests. There is increasing pressure on public authorities in Europe to shift their priorities giving more freedom to economic investors and property owners.

Thus, the context for the PICH project is a rapidly changing approach to urban governance that will have implications for both the built and intangible part of the urban landscape heritage. The PICH project aims to provide understanding and practical guidance that helps to ensure that new approaches to urban planning enhance rather than undermine conservation of both the built and intangible urban heritage.

The PICH project will provide a comprehensive assessment of the impact of fundamental reforms in urban planning and governance on the historic built environment and place identity, in four countries: Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom. The project will evaluate and assess the impact of planning and governance change in three settings: the historic urban core, sites of industrial transformation, and the wider landscape heritage.

The project began in June 2015 for three years. It was formally launched at the conference on Old City – New Reality: The Role of European Historic Urban Core held at Delft University of Technology in October 2015.The conference was held to present findings from a previous JPI Heritage pilot project: SHUC, Sustainable Futures for the Historic Urban Core. Findings from the SHUC project provide an important starting point for the PICH research and can be found at the website address shown below.

In the first part of the project the PICH partners, led by TU Delft, have agreed a conceptual framework and research design that can be applied in each case study location. In parallel NTNU have begun testing the framework with a pilot study comprising document study, focus group and interviews in order to test the availability of data and refine the questions. The four areas selected for the first part of the study have been chosen and are illustrated in Figure below. Each shows the classic complex fine-grain street pattern typical of many historic urban cores. PICH is reviewing practices in the whole of the historic cores and undertaking more detailed investigation in the areas shown.

Screenshot 2016-02-12 22.01.25Screenshot 2016-02-12 22.01.06

Through these and other case studies, the PICH project provides a platform where academic, government and civil society partners can explore and share knowledge about changing processes and tools of urban conservation. We are learning about both good and bad experiences under very different conditions, and considering the potential for transfer of solutions.

Updates of findings will be posted on this website and we encourage exchange of information through social media: Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created for the project and we welcome contributions from all interested parties.

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