Valuing Urban Heritage: policy and practice

Submitting Institution

University of Leicester

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Built Environment and Design: Architecture
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Sociology

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Summary of the impact

Heritage is a key component of contemporary urban regeneration policies. Rebecca Madgin's research is embedded with, and informed by, knowledge-exchange with public bodies. Her historically-informed and methodologically innovative approach to the heritage of the built environment empowers a diverse range of user groups — local councils, public bodies and third-sector `heritage' organizations — to develop a more sophisticated knowledge of the ways in which local communities understand and value the buildings and spaces that they inhabit. Specifically, the case study shows how Madgin's work has directly informed the planning policies of two organisations: Edinburgh World Heritage Trust and Leicester City Council.

Underpinning research

Madgin's research concentrates [1-3, 6] on the economic and emotional values ascribed to the historic built environment during the process of urban change, specifically: the ways that individuals and groups value the historic urban environment; the role of built heritage in fostering place attachment; the extent to which these values have influenced the type, nature and sustainability of urban regeneration schemes since the 1960s. Madgin deploys interdisciplinary methods and draws on her own in-depth research completed in seven European cities in England [1,2,5], Scotland [1,6], France [1,2] and Italy. Methodological innovation is a consistent theme; realising the limitations of existing research techniques, Madgin has developed a new methodology to capture both the economic and emotional value of the historic environment during the process of urban change (e.g. publications on Edinburgh [4], Leicester [1,5], and her work with Edinburgh World Heritage Trust and Leicester City Council).

Madgin's research has two main strands.

First: analysis of the complex interaction of agencies and agendas determining the economic value of the historic environment. With her detailed knowledge of the institutional framework in British and French cities alongside her in-depth archival research on Leicester [1,5] Madgin has contributed effectively to the Leicester City Mayor's Heritage Partnership. Madgin has furthered this through the award of a JISC-project: Manufacturing Pasts: Industrial Change in Twentieth-Century Britain [G7] which enabled her to examine the management of urban change and the role of industrial heritage in shaping post-industrial Leicester. Significantly, she has been able to incorporate her historical research findings into the contemporary management of urban heritage in Leicester.

Second: she has demonstrated the latent yet powerful emotional values ascribed to historic buildings during the process of urban change [1-3,6]. This symbiotic relationship between the economic and emotional value of the past remains the central thrust of her research supported through externally-funded research projects [G1-G8]. She has used her research findings on economic and emotional value to inform the design of two commissioned public projects, for the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust and Leicester City Council.

Madgin has also made a significant contribution to [1, 6] value theory and heritage policy by developing categories and questions that interrogate both the economic and emotional value of the built environment. Her methodology combines the standard hypothetical approach of Contingent Valuation Method (designed to capture the use value of non-market goods and typically based on hypothetical questions asking the respondent how much they would be willing to pay to retain/demolish the historic environment) with questions that consider the reality of urban change. This approach responds directly to the Government's March 2012 National Planning Policy Framework which calls for a greater contribution to our knowledge and understanding of the past by capturing evidence and conserving heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance, and uses it to inform planning policy in Leicester and Edinburgh. These questions are both shaped by and inform the strategic management of the world heritage site in Edinburgh and Leicester City Council's Heritage Action Plan and their Heritage Lottery-funded `Townscape Heritage Initiative'.

References to the research

1. Madgin, R. (2009), Heritage, Culture and Conservation: Managing the Urban Renaissance (Saarbrucken, VDM Verlag) [supplied on request; REF2:MADGIN1]

2. Madgin, R. (2009), 'Using culture to turn de-industrial space into post-industrial place: a British-French comparison', in Eckardt, F. and Nystrom, L. (eds), Culture and City (Berlin: Berliner Wissenschaftsverlag), pp.59-84 [supplied on request]

3. Madgin, R. (2010), 'Reconceptualising the historic urban environment: conservation and regeneration in Castlefield, Manchester, 1960-2009', Planning Perspectives 25.1, pp. 29-48 DOI: [REF2:MADGIN2]


4. Madgin, R (2013), `Inspiring capital: deconstructing myths and reconstructing urban environments, Edinburgh, 1860-2010', Urban History 40:3 (with Rodger, R.), pp. 507-529 DOI: [REF2:MADGIN3]


5. Madgin, R. (Forthcoming, 2013) Leicester: A Modern History, Lancaster: Carnegie Publishing (with Rodger, R) and chapter 'Contesting liberty: the place of industrial heritage in Leicester's urban regeneration [supplied on request]

6. Madgin, R. (2013) `A town without memory? Inferring the industrial past: Clydebank re-built, 1941-2013', in Zimmerman, C. (ed.) Industrial Cities: History and Future, Frankfurt am Main/New York 2013: Campus Verlag, Chicago University Press, pp. 283-304 [supplied on request] [REF2:MADGIN4]

Relevant Grants:


G1 Co-I: AH/J013676/1: Building Shared Heritages: Cultural Diversity in Leicester (£20,000)

G2 Co-I: AH/K006754/1: `How should decisions about heritage be made?' Co-designing a research project (£105,000)

G3 Co-I: AH/K002716/1: Archives, Assets and Audiences: new modes to engage audiences with archival content and heritage sites (£250,000)

G4 Co-I: AH/K007661/1: Building and Enriching Shared Heritages: A Toolkit for Community Organisations (£55,000)

G5 PI: AH/K503101/1: Cultural Engagement Fund: Valuing the Historic Core of Leicester (£10,000)

G6 Co-I: AH/L008925/1: Affective Digital Histories: Recreating De-industrial Places, 1970s to the Present (£515,000)


G7 2781: Manufacturing Pasts: Industrial Change in Twentieth-Century Britain (£102,000)

Heritage Lottery Fund:

G8 Living and Working in the Old Town (£1,100,000): awarded to Leicester City Council

Details of the impact

Madgin's research on the value of the urban environment has informed the policy and practice of the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust as part of its stated aim of managing this complex site in a holistic fashion, balancing the interests of the city's residents, business, visitors and the historic environment. In 2011, the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust decided to set up a `focused research project based on understanding how the site is valued in economic terms, and whether from this an overall value could be ascribed to the site' [A]. Because of the reputation of her pre-existing research, Madgin was commissioned by the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust in July 2011 to advise on the methodology for collecting the economic values of this World Heritage site. Accordingly, she co-designed and carried out a rigorous survey that resulted in the collection (August 2011-September 2012) and analysis (September 2012-July 2013) of 970 responses from residents, businesses and visitors to the World Heritage site in Edinburgh. As the Director of the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, pointed out, `These econometric and statistical skills are not easily available to our organisation, let alone as an in-kind contribution to the project' [A]. Furthermore, Madgin's research into value has led to a series of baselines being established which have been used to support the `voice of the site' in the current `financial climate' [A]. Consequently, Madgin is a co-author of the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust report, which aims to `give value to the [world heritage] site' and to put an exemplar for `calculating this value out to scrutiny, adaptation and use by others'.

Madgin's research has also been a key driver in shaping heritage-based urban regeneration policies in Leicester. Because of her research into Leicester's urban history [1, 5], Madgin was invited to join the City Mayor's Heritage Partnership in 2011, an advisory body that supports and guides the long-term future of heritage development in the city. Sir Peter Soulsby, the elected Mayor of Leicester, notes that, Madgin was `a key member of the partnership, bringing an important perspective on the wider value of heritage and the importance of community engagement and participation' [B]. She advised Leicester City Council on the strategic aims of heritage policy in Leicester and helped shape its Heritage Action Plan (2011-16) [H]. Furthermore, Madgin's research expertise contributed `directly to the development and delivery of the plan, specifically in policy development, promotion and participation of the historical environment and in the delivery of key major projects' (idem). For instance, Madgin secured AHRC funding [G1] in 2012 to deliver the `Promotion and Participation' element of the Action Plan. She organized a series of events between May-December 2012 designed to promote Leicester's urban heritage and encourage participation in urban conservation. These events were attended by 160 participants from more than 70 different community groups, many of whom had not previously engaged with the city's heritage.

Madgin built on contacts with local community groups at these events to contribute to another initiative launched by Leicester City Council in 2012: The Story of Leicester. This project seeks to raise awareness of Leicester's history as part of a broader attempt to re-connect Leicester citizens to the city`s past. Madgin worked directly with eleven community groups to obtain HLF funding [G7; C, F; see also D] and ensured that these locally-generated research projects became part of the online presence in The Story of Leicester. Madgin applied successfully for further AHRC funds in July 2012 with the Museums Department of Leicester City Council to work with the creative and cultural industries in telling the story of Leicester's industrial heritage [G3; F]. Notably, Madgin's knowledge of archives pertaining to Leicester's industrial past [G3, G6; 1, 5] underpinned the re-interpretation of the former hosiery factory, Makers' Yard, as part of a strategy to economically regenerate the city's Cultural Quarter. Her work thus contributed to an architectural award by the Leicester Civic Society in February 2013 for the sensitive re-use of the building [G]. This strand of Madgin's research will continue to make an important contribution to the recovery of Leicester's heritage in the future. Indeed, she has recently been awarded a major research grant by the AHRC [G6] for a project that seeks to use digital technologies to elicit place memories and attachments in Leicester's former industrial districts.

Equally, Madgin's research into the economic and emotional values of the past also informed Leicester City Council's successful £1.1milion grant in April 2013 from the HLF for its Townscape Heritage Initiative project `Living and Working in the Old Town'. This is an ambitious six-year programme (2013-19) of building improvements, training and business and community engagement in the Old Town area of the city, bringing a total investment in the area of around £2 million. Notably, Madgin adapted the survey methodology that she designed for Edinburgh World Heritage Trust to meet the policy needs of the city Council [F]. Using an AHRC grant [G5], Madgin designed the structure of the questionnaire that is now an integral component of the city's heritage policy. As Mayor Soulsby acknowledged, Madgin's role `in developing the methodology for the monitoring and evaluation of the programme was crucial to the success of the bid' [B]. Finally, both Edinburgh World Heritage Trust and Leicester City Council have used Madgin's research expertise to give them "an evidence base to inform policy and practice" [F] which has resulted in a change to both organisational culture and delivery of heritage policy in two cities.

Sources to corroborate the impact

A. Letter from Director, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, 25.06.2013

B. Letter from Mayor, Leicester City Council, 20.06. 2013

C. Letter from Development Manager Heritage Lottery Fund (East Midlands), 03.12.13

D. Letter from Cottesmore History and Archaeology Group, 30.11.2012, thanking Dr Madgin for her role in their HLF bid

E. Letter of support from Business and Development Manager, Museums Service, Leicester City Council, 28.05.2012

F. Letter from Senior Building Conservation Officer, Leicester City Council, 04.07.2013

G. Letter from Director, Munro+Whitten Ltd., 01.07.2013

H. plan/ (see page 15 for explicit reference to Madgin and AHRC grants)