General view of the redeveloped canal basin near King's Cross station, Euston Road, London.

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The redeveloped canal basin near King's Cross station, Euston Road, London where 20 historic buildings have been restored and refurbished. The mixed-use development will support a new population of over 42,000 people © Historic England DP149040.

Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance

'Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance' is intended mainly to guide Historic England staff on best practice. We hope that, like all of our guidance, the principles will also be read and used by local authorities, property owners, developers and professional advisers.

High-level principles

'Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance' sets out six high-level principles:

  • The historic environment is a shared resource
  • Everyone should be able to participate in sustaining the historic environment
  • Understanding the significance of places is vital
  • Significant places should be managed to sustain their values
  • Decisions about change must be reasonable, transparent and consistent
  • Documenting and learning from decisions is essential

The principles respond to the need for a clear, over-arching philosophical framework of what conservation means at the beginning of the 21st century.

What do we mean by 'significance' and 'heritage values'?

The idea of 'significance' lies at the core of these principles. Significance is a collective term for the sum of all the heritage values attached to a place, be it a building an archaeological site or a larger historic area such as a whole village or landscape.

'Conservation Principles' sets out a method for thinking systematically and consistently about the heritage values that can be ascribed to a place. People value historic places in many different ways; 'Conservation Principles' shows how they can be grouped into four categories:

Evidential value: the potential of a place to yield evidence about past human activity.

Historical value: the ways in which past people, events and aspects of life can be connected through a place to the present - it tends to be illustrative or associative.

Aesthetic value: the ways in which people draw sensory and intellectual stimulation from a place.

Communal value: the meanings of a place for the people who relate to it, or for whom it figures in their collective experience or memory.

The guidance contained in the document also includes a recommended approach to assessing significance, advice on how to apply the principles and policies in practice and detailed interpretation of policies on repair, on intervention for research, on restoration, on new work and alteration and on enabling development.

On 1 April 2015 the part of English Heritage represented on this website changed its name to Historic England. You may notice that some of our content still refers to English Heritage. We are in the process of rebranding, but in the meantime please be assured that all our content and guidance is still current.

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