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Conservation and heritage

Leeds has a richly diverse historic environment that makes a significant contribution to the lives of people who live, work and visit the area. The historic city centre and the surrounding historic towns, villages and landscapes all contribute to the local distinctiveness of the area – its ‘sense of place’.

The district has a great and valued heritage from the city centre that retains its medieval layout and is renowned for its Victorian architecture such as the Town Hall and the Corn Exchange, to earlier survivals such as Kirkstall Abbey and the later industrial centres of innovation such as Holbeck that boasts the remains of the world’s oldest surviving engineering works.

Today conservation is a central part of the planning and sustainable development of the city. The Conservation Team works to promote understanding and positive management of the heritage assets within the Council’s stewardship.

This includes:

  • Listed buildings – over 2,300 list entries representing some 3,300 separate buildings and structures, more designations that there are in York which has 1571 entries
  • Conservation areas – over 70 conservation areas 
  • Historic parks and gardens – 13 designated sites
  • Registered battlefields – 1 designated site
  • Scheduled monuments – 58 designated monuments
  • Non-designated heritage assets – countless buildings of local importance and sites of archaeological interest

What is conservation?

In the context of the historic environment, conservation is the process of maintaining and managing change to a heritage asset in a way that sustains and, where appropriate, enhances its significance.

What is heritage?

​Heritage has been defined by English Heritage as ‘All inherited resources which people value for reasons beyond mere utility’ (Conservation principles, policies and guidance for the sustainable management of the historic environment, 2008).

The historic environment forms part of the heritage of Leeds. It is defined in the National Planning Policy Framework as ‘All aspects of the environment resulting from the interaction between people and places through time, including all surviving physical remains of past human activity, whether visible, buried or submerged, and landscaped and planted or managed flora’.

What is a heritage asset?

A heritage asset is a building, monument, site, place, area or landscape identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions, because of its heritage interest.

The term ‘heritage asset’ includes designated heritage assets and assets identified by the local planning authority. Designated heritage assets include world heritage sites, scheduled monuments, listed buildings, protected wreck sites, registered parks and gardens, registered battlefields and conservation areas.

Non-designated heritage assets include heritage assets that do not fall within the designations outlined above, including non-scheduled archaeological remains and buildings of local importance.

What is sustainable development?

Sustainable development was defined in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development report as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ (Brundtland Report 1987).

The policies of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) taken as a whole constitute the Government’s view of what Sustainable Development in England means in practice for the planning system.

Why should we bother to conserve our heritage?

​The heritage of Leeds is a hugely valuable asset and is a non-renewal, finite resource that should be looked after to ensure that its benefits can be enjoyed by people today and in the future.

As well as the very real contribution to the quality of our places and quality of life, the historic environment can be a powerful driver for economic growth, attracting investment and drawing people in to visit the area.

It has played a focus for successful regeneration securing heritage funding and transforming areas. It is a cultural asset telling the story of how the area has evolved and developed and featuring places and buildings of great beauty showcasing ingenuity and skill.

It can be a strong focus for local communities, creating distinctive, enjoyable and successful places in which to live and work. It can also contribute to the challenge of climate change through sustainable development including the reuse of buildings and the embodied energy they contain and through an understanding of the inherently sustainable character of traditional buildings.

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Public Access will be unavailable on Sunday 5 October from 10am until 1pm due to essential work. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

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