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Heritage Counts 2018

New research by Historic England for the Historic Environment Forum has revealed the vital contribution of heritage to the North East’s economy. Heritage is an important employer and attracts millions of visitors each year. The North East’s historic buildings also provide homes for residents and unique premises for business.

Heritage and the Economy

The latest figures published in Heritage Counts 2018 show that in the North East:

  • There are 15,000 people employed in heritage.
  • Heritage tourism generated £490m in spending by domestic and international tourists who made 10.6 million visits.
  • Heritage directly contributed £803m in Gross Value Added (the measure of the value of goods and services produced in an area, industry or sector of the economy) – equivalent to 2% of total Gross Value Added in the North East.

Heritage Regeneration

Heritage Counts 2018 shows that heritage-led regeneration can turn derelict historic areas into vibrant places in which people want to live and work. Heritage assets in commercial use form the backbone of today’s local economies, providing valuable employment, land and premises that are full of character.

Heritage Counts 2018 shows that there are approximately 142,000 commercial operations in listed buildings in town and city centres across England.

The independent retail sector is particularly important in the current retail environment as national brands continue to consolidate. The number of food and drink establishments occupying listed buildings is also increasing at an extremely fast pace.

Evidence suggests there is a range of benefits associated with listed buildings such as “ambience” and “attractiveness” as consumers seek “unique, curated and immersive experiences” from their leisure destinations and workplaces.

Experiential retailing relies on the ability of cities, towns, high streets and premises to differentiate themselves in order to attract visitors, workers and businesses. Heritage can, therefore, provide a sense of distinctiveness to help support commercial operations.

Heritage and the Creative Industries

Heritage Counts 2018 also focuses on links between historic places and the creative industries. 25% of all creative industries are based in conservation areas and it is estimated that creative businesses in conservation areas employ over 460,000 people and generate up to £25 billion in term of Gross Value Added.

The Lower Ouseburn Valley conservation area (in Newcastle) is a good example of this. Prior to the industrial revolution, the valley was largely agricultural until the coal, glass and pottery industries played a critical role in shaping the character of the area.

During the 1980s a number of arts and cultural activities were drawn to some of the historic buildings found in the valley including an art gallery and music studios at ‘The Cluny’ on 36 Lime Street – a grade II listed former Flax Mill of 1848, designed by John Dobson.

Today the valley is one of Newcastle’s prime regeneration areas, sitting on the edge of the city centre and adjacent to the East Quayside development. The valley is now an established hub for cultural industries and home to a wide range of art, music, design and print studios plus a community farm, the National Centre for Children’s Books (Seven Stories) and the Biscuit Factory (the UK’s largest independent commercial art gallery).

Heritage Counts is the annual audit of England’s heritage, first produced in 2002.

Each year, Heritage Counts covers different topics ranging from the impact of climate change on the historic environment to skills within the sector. Visit the Historic England website to view past years’ editions.

Heritage Counts also collates a large dataset of indicators providing an insight into the state of the historic environment. These include everything from the number of listed heritage assets to the numbers of planning decisions affecting the historic environment.

Visit to view all of the material online.

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