Towards the Development of a Sustainable Framework for the Coherent Conservation of Historic Small-Scale Tidal Harbours in the UK

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Welsh School of Architecture (ARCHI)


This research will query the extent to which the existing administrative frameworks in the UK are successful in supporting the articulation of significance and coherent conservation of small scale historic harbour settings. Specifically, it will examine how well-equipped the conservation sector is to participate in sustainable decision making about the future of these vulnerable sites which may consist of vernacular and engineered structures both on and offshore.
It will review contextual factors which are specific to the coastal zone that have a direct impact on conservation outcomes including ownership, public awareness, finance and grant funding, ICZM, marine and environmental law. A particular focus will be the drive towards sustainable coastal management which are already shaping decision making in the coastal zone - the National Trust's adoption of managed retreat at Mullion Cove and elsewhere is a well-publicised example.
The research aims to identify a characterisation strategy for small scale harbour setting in terms of date and construction, plan form and other spatial characteristics, regional variations and coastal geography/topography. This data will form the basis for the development of a framework which can be utilised to achieve a better understanding of historic harbour settings, and establish criteria for the evaluation of significance in terms of fabric, functional and spatial relationships between significant elements, and the identification of associated heritage values.
The research will conclude by identifying best practice approaches to the sustainable conservation of marine infrastructure which can be applied to the conservation of historic harbour settings. On an administrative level, it will consider whether an alternative designation system would be desirable, and whether mechanisms such as heritage partnerships agreements and inter-disciplinary working may improve conservation outcomes, together with options for future resourcing. On a practical level, it will attempt to establish a hierarchy of best practice intervention, including adaptation and change of use, and mitigating strategies where partial or entire loss is likely.
It is hoped that this research will substantially contribute to a wider non-sectoral discussion regarding the future of our historic harbours. It is also hoped that it will be of practical value in formulating specific best practice guidance for the conservation sector, and inform their specialist input into the ongoing conservation of these significant, yet highly vulnerable historic settings.


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