Since its inception in the mid 1970s the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust (DHBT) has provided support and professional guidance to historic building owners and custodians in relation to a range of issues and challenges, such as restoration, adaptation and re-use, general care and maintenance, as well as the identification of cultural value and significance.
As part of its current strategic development, the DHBT has identified a need to potentially formalise a practice that it has been informally providing for many years; namely, to offer initial support and guidance to historic building owners and custodians in relation to both identifying and facilitating the appropriate courses of action and care of the historic buildings they have acquired or assumed responsibility for.
Anecdotal evidence has shown the Trust that many historic building owners and custodians in the county require initial support and guidance in understanding the issues and challenges that owning and maintaining an historic building can often present. Unfortunately, due to the continued ‘streamlining’ of conservation departments throughout the county’s local planning authorities, building owners are now finding it more difficult to get preliminary advice from officers, and in some instances are now experiencing a series of obstacles (such as paywalls) in relation to the necessary advice and services they require.
As a consequence of the DHBT’s existing and proposed future project work, such as the proposed Buildings at Risk Survey (2021), and the Trust’s position as a locally recognised and trusted heritage organisation, it anticipates a significant increase in the demand for the type of advice and support identified above. Therefore, the DHBT is proposing the development of an Academy that will support the work of the current Technical Panel in providing historic building owners and custodians with the initial support and help they require.
It is the intention of the DHBT that the Academy will eventually become a catalyst for the development of a knowledge repository and educational resource that will help secure the longevity of the county’s historic built environment for many years to come. In order to begin to develop this proposal, the DHBT would like to explore the possibility of working with a range of local Heritage & Conservation professionals, in a mutually beneficial capacity, to understand how such an Academy can be developed.
An outline of the core aim and objectives, along with some initial thoughts on possible development phases and potential questions and challenges were discussed at the initial meeting to discuss ideas on the 8th September 2020.
‘To work together honourably for the good of historic buildings in Derbyshire…’
Provide initial support and guidance to historic building owners and custodians through a range of direct professional relationships with architects, structural engineers, surveyors and planners.
Develop a repository of knowledge and practice through a network of informed professionals from across the Heritage & Conservation sector.
Utilise existing knowledge and archive material within the DHBT in order to develop an accessible digital archive to support the work of the Academy and the Technical Panel.
Increase awareness and membership (Friends) of the DHBT through interactions with historic building owners and custodians.
Support the educational and technical development of the Trust’s existing activities, such as its current project work (South Wingfield Station), its ‘Buildings at Risk’ register (ongoing) and proposed county-wide survey work (2021), as well as its annual events schedule (awards, walks and talks).
First Phase (Short-term)
As it is intended that the Academy will be made up of local industry professionals, the first task is to establish a group of individuals, with a range of knowledge and experience in the Heritage & Conservation sector, who are willing to support the Trust in providing initial consultations and professional advice to historic building owners and custodians on a range of issues, including short and long-term maintenance, planning and consents, renovation and restoration and adaptation and re-use.
Once a core group of professionals has been established, the Trust will develop, with the support of this group, some initial terms of engagement that will enable a range of pilot consultations to be completed. The Chair of the DHBT Board of Trustees and other members have already discussed the potential of using recognised frameworks (such as RIBA’s Plan of Works, see notes below) to inform the working structure and intent of any pilot consultations. This should allow the ‘success’ of these consultations to be measured against recognised industry practices and standards.
It is proposed that the Academy will share a symbiotic relationship with the Trust’s long-established Technical Panel, which will provide mutual support to the Academy, as well as highlighting developing issues and trends affecting the county’s historic assets. One of the key historical strengths of the Technical Panel has been its focus on regional and county-wide variants and issues, with members being highly versed in the local vernacular. The wider potential of this mutually supportive relationship should provide the basis for the development of ongoing Continued Professional Development seminars and workshops, specialising in new developments and changing practices in the areas of conservation, planning and the funding of the region’s historic built environment and wider heritage projects.
Second Phase (Longer-term)
It is considered that the development and potential success of an Academy will help guide the future strategic development of the DHBT, providing a platform for the broader succession of both board and membership roles, as well as supporting the Trust’s longer-term aim of securing the longevity of county’s historical assets for posterity.
It is envisaged that one of the longer-term objectives of the Academy will be to develop relationships with both Further and Higher educational institutions (such as Derby University) and other heritage-based trusts (such as Heritage Lincolnshire), in order to provide new opportunities to broaden the range of skills and experience of individuals who wish to contribute and support the Heritage & Conservation sector within the Derbyshire region.
As the Trust is currently reliant on support from external agencies (such as the National Lottery Heritage Fund) and government supported organisations (such as Historic England), the development of an Academy (with a focus on educational, as well as technical development) should bolster its position in relation to its regular cycle of funding applications and financial and fund raising initiatives.
Whilst the main objective of the Academy is to provide mutually supportive benefits to all involved (networked professionals, local authority representatives and building owners and custodians), the secondary objective is to provide the basis for a unique learning organisation in which knowledge, skills and experience, in relation to the county’s growing list of historic assets, can be shared and experienced by a much larger group of engaged and interested individuals.