The National Audit Office has just published a review of the Defence Estate Optimisation (DEO) programme. Aside from the overarching conclusions that the programme isn’t going as well as it might do – in terms of speed, cost, reduced income generation and overall project management and complexity – the more interesting reading comes from a reminder of some of the facts and figures about the defence estate of relevance for heritage management and natural landscape management.
The defence estate comprises 344,200 hectares of land in the UK, which comprises 1.5% of the country’s landmass.
The built estate comprises 75,400 hectares (32% of the overall holding) containing offices, technical facilities, and storage and support for military equipment and inventory. It consists of 900 sites, which have roughly 96,000 buildings including houses, technical assets, such as storage units and training facilities, and other assets such as runways and electrical networks.
In broader landscape management terms, the rural estate comprises 157,500 hectares (68% of the overall holding) and is used for training and ranges. This land includes designated and protected areas including 13 national parks, 33 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and 11 National Scenic Areas.
Around 40% of the Department’s infrastructure is more than 50 years old and it regards 30% as not being in an acceptable condition.
The DEO programme aims for a reduction of the built estate by 30% by 2040.
The Ministry of Defence looks after significant heritage assets in terms of historic buildings/sites and landscapes – the ongoing optimisation and disposals programme presents both challenges and opportunities for its historic environment holdings in terms of ongoing maintenance and renewal needs, survival or protection, and adaptation and change under new management.
Inevitably I have become an avid listener to the new heritage-focused podcast series launched by the Duchess of Rutland, simply entitled, “Duchess” as I have headed out for my daily constitutionals during lockdown.
The first series has ranged far and wide across the UK, focusing on the personal stories of the women behind the running and development of private stately homes and estates – most of whom are united by being part of the British aristocracy with the title Duchesses. As Emma Rutland wryly observes, it is a somewhat elite club!
She has however produced utterly engaging interviews which have been exceedingly open and honest, revealing how the interviewees have married into, inherited, survived and prospered as members of the British establishment. More importantly the interviews go a long way to break down the stereotypes of the private stately home owner in explaining the trials and tribulations of the sleeves-rolled-up approaches needed for maintaining the ongoing survival and flourishing of the estates in local communities and modern society more widely.
The love of peeking behind the curtain will make the series appeal to many, whilst anyone interested more in the ‘management’ of heritage sites will find plenty too, as the stories have provided a wealth of case studies of innovation, social inclusion, community development, tourism experience creation, and reflections on long term stewardship of historic assets in private hands often against the odds.
Journal Summary: The Historic Environment: Policy & Practice is a journal for all those that investigate, conserve and manage the historic environment. The journal was established in association with the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists.
The journal contains papers relevant to archaeological practitioners, and those involved in building conservation – contractors, consultants, curators, researchers, students and fieldworkers – both professional and voluntary. Content cuts across organisational divisions to identify themes which are of concern and interest to all practitioners.
The Historic Environment: Policy & Practice demonstrates best practice and appropriate methods, and the enhancement of technical and professional skills. The journal relates these skills to topical issues and features the political, legal, economic, cultural, environmental, social and educational contexts, and the academic frameworks, in which those involved in the historic environment work.
The scope includes:
Development of skills and competence in archaeology and conservation
Best practice approaches to cultural resource management
New techniques in the investigation of ancient and recent archaeological sites, landscapes and buildings
The relationship between historic sites and past and future environmental change
Journal Summary: From 1981 through until 2018, the George Wright Society published The George Wright Forum, an interdisciplinary journal that explored innovative thinking and offered enduring perspectives on critical issues across the whole spectrum of place-based heritage management and stewardship. The George Wright Forum published insights from virtually every field in cultural and natural resources related to parks, protected areas, and cultural sites. You can download free of charge every paper ever published in The George Wright Forum from our publications archive website: http://www.georgewright.org/forum_issues.
Journal Summary: Museum Practice (MP) was launced in 1998 to provide examples of new developments and innovations in museums and galleries, from the latest technology to new ways of interpreting objects and storing collections. The magazine has moved to be an online magazine which each month examines a different area of museum practice, with opportunities for readers to contrtibute case studies and share best practice.
Journal Summary: Landscape Research, the peer-reviewed journal of the Landscape Research Group, is a dedicated international forum for debating landscape. The journal is distinctive in its combining of high-quality and innovative research papers with reflective critiques of landscape practice.
Contributions to the journal appeal to a wide academic and professional readership and reach an interdisciplinary and international audience. Whilst unified by a focus on landscape, the coverage of Landscape Research is wide ranging. The journal therefore encourages submissions from a range of disciplines, including environmental conservation, geography (human and physical), landscape architecture, archaeology, history, anthropology, urban studies, planning, design, heritage studies, ecology, countryside management, cultural studies and forestry.
There are tantalising glimpses of the remains of the Ming Dynasty city walls around the modern centre of Beijing. Some parts have been adapted and built up against, whilst some like this section are backdrops to tiny pocket parks, which provide much needed green space in a frenetic city. Often you have to take a moment to work out what you are looking at, as not all sections have interpretation panels (though many do, like this one). The sections provide intimate glimpses into the long history of settlement and the ever-present role of history and a deeply valued cultural story. They are used heavily as spaces for rest for workers from nearby offices and recreation space for flat dwellers in the vicinity who have little green space access otherwise.
I have just arrived back in China for one of my regular trips in my role as Confucius Institute director for Heriot-Watt University. The sheer scale of heritage sites, cultural parks and the effect that scale has on heritage management practice never ceases to fascinate me particularly from the air as I arrive in Beijing. Sadly I didn’t have my camera to hand on this trip as the plane banked around the city from north to south to bring me in to the new Daxing airport, but the visibility was good enough to again identify stretches of the Great Wall to the north, and then a number of urban parks and cultural sites as we got closer to our landing point. Regardless of differences in management philosophies for heritage between the west and the east, one of the major factors that we sometimes fail to really appreciate is the sheer scale for heritage conservation which China faces in both the rural and urban landscape.
Journal summary: The Journal of Cultural Heritage (JCH) is a multidisciplinary journal of science and technology for studying problems concerning conservation and awareness of cultural heritage in a wide framework. The main purpose of JCH is to publish original papers which comprise previously unpublished data and present innovative methods concerning all scientific aspects related to the knowledge of cultural heritage as well as novel interpretation and theoretical issues related to preservation. The journal is intended to offer a venue to scientists from different disciplines whose common objective is developing and applying scientific methods to improve the research and knowledge on cultural heritage, in particular in the following fields: • Safeguarding, conservation and exploitation of cultural heritage • Heritage management and economic analyses • Computer sciences in cultural heritage • Impact of climate change on cultural heritage and management of the change
Journal Summary: The Journal of Architectural Conservation provides invaluable guidance on policy, practice and technical developments. Encouraging debate on a broad variety of conservation issues, this peer-reviewed Journal with its high academic and professional standards fulfils its ambition to illuminate, question and inform. The journal’s scope is wide-ranging and includes discussion on aesthetics and philosophies; historical influences; project evaluation and control; repair techniques; materials; reuse of buildings; legal issues; inspection, recording and monitoring; management and interpretation; and historic parks and gardens. Journal of Architectural Conservation also offers a valuable resource that includes information on building types; building materials and their conservation; recent case studies; developments in specific construction techniques; and research results from key investigations.