Weathering the Storms - 11/12/2009

Cambridge Open Space
Cambridge - open spaces along rivers in historic towns are vulnerable to flooding due to climate change.

Our historic environment has seen long hot summers and bitterly cold winters come and go and has emerged a little weather beaten, but not too much the worse for wear, into the 21st Century. But that was changing weather - changing climate is another matter. The Historic Environment Review Committee (HEREC) has now set up a group with a specific remit to coordinate the sector's response to the climate change agenda.

Heritage Counts 2008 had a climate change focus, and highlighted the ways in which the historic environment can make a positive contribution to the challenges ahead. These included: adaptation to predicted changes; mitigation of the sector's own contribution to emissions; and public engagement on the issues. Heritage Counts 2008 also featured six key statements setting out an approach to the climate change challenge.

Since then, there have been a number of opportunities for further promoting the debate. These include public events, such as the CIoB Conference at Somerset House held in May 2009 (at which I presented a paper on behalf of the HTF); and there was the opportunity to respond to the Government's Renewable Energy Strategy.

Individual HEREC members will be engaged in different ways in the public debate around climate change, but there is a role for HEREC to join things up in a way that will ensure a more consistent voice from the sector. The new sub-group will look at the wide range of climate change issues that relate to the historic environment. The aim is to give out a strong message, share best practice and provide a forum for active debate on issues of current concern. HEREC has agreed terms of reference and the National Trust will Chair the sub-group.

The sub-group met for the first time on 15 October 2009 and agreed that it would be helpful as a first step to map the range of activities the heritage sector is engaged in already, covering:

  • Communications
  • Advice & guidance
  • Activity on own estates - case studies, projects and initiatives
  • Behavioural change - engagement and outreach
  • Research
  • Contributions to Government policy

Current contributions from the HTF include:

  • Communications - The HTF will address climate change issues through its Newsletter and website.
  • Advice and Guidance - The HTF is currently developing an area of its website to cover good practice in delivering growth in historic towns. This will include how to address climate change issues. The HTF has links with The European Association of Historic Towns and Regions, which has been involved with the CHEF project1.
  • Behavioural Change - The role of the HTF is to promote prosperity and conservation in historic towns, working principally through local authorities. Its work has touched on climate change issues, eg contributing to the CIoB Conference.
  • The sub-group is planning to meet again early in 2010. If you have views on this pressing challenge, and especially examples of good practice, please let me know so that I can feed them into the discussion.

    Brian Human
    Vice Chair HTF

    1The CHEF initiative aims at preventing moveable and immoveable cultural heritage from damage caused by flooding. Risk assessment and emergency measures as well as damage evaluation and restoration and repair techniques are considered in the frame of the project. There have been discussions about the preparation of Guidelines on Flooding.