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Hawthorn House – stephensonquarter.com/#phase1

This topic is fascinating, important, and as Rebecca highlights, a major challenge. Edinburgh is a great example because the heritage of the place is clear to see, and has been well conserved as well as developed in many parts.

The area of your post that I wish to develop in this discussion is that of the economic impact of new developments, and how building heritage into plans for new neighbourhoods, housing, retail, transport infrastructure can increase the ‘value’ of a project, plot of land, or a building.

Nasser (2003) writes that ‘conservation must be based on efficient use and economic viability’ (pg 471). What is described here is the ‘interdependence’ between conservation and economic viability, and that with only one and not the other, the ‘sustainability’ of the development reduces. For example, in really simple and practical terms, Nasser (2003) writes that a building ‘must not only be convenient to use but also capable of use at reasonable cost’ (pg471). Furthermore, ‘the link between the preservation of the past for its intrinsic value, and as a resource for the modern community as a commercial activity” (Ashworth and Tunbridge, 1990, pg24) is essential for successful ‘heritage’ development to be sustainable.

To bring the discussion to a local and more regional scale, I was intrigued by the recent master-planning and heritage developments of the ‘Stephenson Quarter’ in Newcastle. Newcastle’s rich heritage regarding locomotive invention and development in the early to mid 19th century has resulted in an ‘undeveloped’ site in Newcastle city centre, with listed buildings and opportunity for new buildings and new public space. The balance between new vs. old, heritage vs. economic development, is something that the development company have clearly given thought.

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The Rocket – Car Park – stephensonquarter.com/#phase1

I do have questions regarding this new development and it’s ‘sustainability’. According to their website, there is a major element of this development which is more about economic development that hints of ‘short term’ gains, for example, ‘the creation of 2000 jobs’ (stephensonquarter.com), however, there is little suggestion of heritage other than converting old buildings for new economic use and naming new buildings after old locomotives. The heritage importance of this site is very high because the plot is referred to as the ‘crucible’ of locomotive engineering, and what happened here nearly 200 years ago has had profound impact of whole planet, however I’m not sure this is really conserved or highlighted from an educational perspective. Is this new plan conserving and developing an important heritage site with the best interests of local people and the region in mind? Unfortunately it is very hard to say one way or the other.

References:

Ashworth, Gregory J., and J. E. Tunbridge. 1990. The tourist-historic city. London: Belhaven.

Nasser, N. (2003), ‘Planning for Urban Heritage Places: Reconciling Conservation, Tourism, and Sustainable Development’, Journal of Planning Literature, Vol.17 No. 4, pp.467-479

Stephenson Quarter (undated) Introduction (Online: http://stephensonquarter.com/#introduction)