Britain has a remarkably open planning system with a strong culture of consultation. But public opinion on what should be retained has moved from the scholarly to the community and to the popular. Public participation in urban renewal frequently refreshes outdated heritage values and can derail major regeneration proposals.
Recent examples include the Southbank Centre’s £120m redevelopment plan, which was thrown into disarray after Boris Johnson declared that a part of the complex used by skateboarders should be left unchanged, and the Geffrye Museum whose proposal to demolish a unlisted pub was rejected after a vigorous local campaign
Thanks to social media and new technologies, how these campaigns operate has changed and heritage organisations must change with them. But anyone involved in major planning decisions or development proposals – from architects to local authorities – will also need to take account of potential resistance, not from the learned societies but from vociferous, media-savvy local groups and multiple networks.
Similarly for The Heritage Alliance, the voice of the independent heritage groups in England, some recent high- profile cases demonstrate huge interest in heritage but how to absorb the energy of these heritage activists is a challenge for the Alliance and many of its member organisations.