Adults who live in areas with higher concentrations of historic environment are likely to have a stronger sense of place

Research launched by English Heritage has found a significant link between an adult’s ‘sense of place’ and the concentration of historic environment assets within their area.

Sense of Place and Social Capital and the Historic Built Environment (pdf, 884kb), launched simultaneously with Heritage Counts 2009, involved surveys with 500 adults and 700 teenagers from across England.

Respondents were asked to score how strongly they agreed with a series of statements such as ‘I could be equally happy living elsewhere’ and ‘I am proud of where I live.’

The impact of living in and around historic assets was particularly strong in adults. Specifically, when all other factors were controlled, adults with a strong sense of place tended to live in areas with a high concentration of historic environment features.

Overall, three of a possible four variables relating to the historic environment were found to have a significant impact on sense of place in adults.

For the teenage group, results were more mixed, with two of a possible four historic environment variables having a significant impact on sense of place.

In parallel with the findings of the Sense of Place research, a recent survey with people that attended historic sites in the West Midlands as part of the Heritage Open Day initiative (published in the Heritage Counts 2009 West Midlands summary) found 94% of respondents felt their visit had made them appreciate their local area more. 92% felt their visit had made them feel more proud of their local area.

Given the evidence that now exists about the benefits of participation in the historic environment, the need to increase participation among under-represented groups is all the more pressing.

In the West Midlands, for example, despite evidence that visiting has increased among people from BME backgrounds in recent years, the percentage of BME adults that had participated in the historic environment (49%) lagged behind the national average (57%), according to the results of the 2007/08 Taking Part survey, published as part of Heritage Counts 2009.

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Photo by Thrice 18/3

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