Dudley, Bury and Newport are among the towns and cities in the UK with the greatest potential to harness the economic and social power of their heritage assets, according to a new index.
Compiled by think tank the RSA and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), it also shows there is no correlation between the heritage of a place and levels of deprivation. And the Heritage Index found Scarborough, South Lakeland and Norwich were the local authority areas with the highest levels of engagement by residents and visitors.
The HLF has urged anyone designing heritage projects – including those bidding for lottery funding – to use the index to get a better understanding of the locality. It would also like to see local authorities and others provide further data to help improve the Heritage Index.
Chief executive Carole Souter said: ‘We hope this new index will help communities to better understand their heritage; identify its potential; and capitalise on what make their areas distinctive. We hope it will encourage debate about what heritage is and how it is best recognised and properly exploited in local plans.’
RSA Associate Director, Jonathan Schifferes said: ‘A comparison between local areas’ heritage should generate a healthy debate about how to make the most of heritage. Today we have an unprecedented amount of data available relating to heritage – but many local communities struggle to access information and put it to use.
‘The Heritage Index helps – showing relative strengths and weaknesses across a broad definition of heritage, letting us see where strengths could be consolidated and capitalized upon; or areas where under-performance might be addressed.
‘While we appreciate that local heritage can often difficult to quantify and record, what's important is building public awareness about what's valued and why - what's missing and what should be there. The goal is a shared and richer understanding of what makes a place unique.’