Although a lot of people need a recognisable living environment with something unique, urban landscapes are starting to look more and more similar. Every town has the same set of well-known shops and residential neighbourhoods often all look the same as well. The solution may be to develop while taking account of heritage. This will enable you to organise a living environment which ensures that the unique features of a town or area are preserved or reinforced.

Seizing heritage opportunities

Using heritage to develop, means that you use the opportunities that heritage offers to plan a certain area, town or neighbourhood. Including heritage in spatial planning generates opportunities. For example, heritage can attract a new generation of urban residents, as well as emerging companies in the services and creative industries. Heritage also offers opportunities for recreation and tourism.

Conversions as the solution for vacancy

As a result of various social and/or and economic developments, real estate vacancy has increased significantly in recent years. The same applies to listed buildings like churches, farms and factories. Finding a different use for these listed buildings can save them from demise. Happily, a conversion offers opportunities to do this. For example, redeveloping heritage can make an area more attractive so that it can be used to attract visitors. Heritage can also be used as a resource to breathe new life into areas in which the population is declining. In addition, listed complexes and large spaces are often very suitable as office space for clusters of small-scale, new and innovative companies. This preserves monuments and gives a boost to the economy in the area in question. A development like this can serve as a catalyst for other developments.

Energy transition opportunities for integration

Heritage can also play a positive role in terms of the energy transition. The transition will have a serious impact on the shaping of our country and on the landscape, for example in the form of wind farms and solar power. If energy measures are carefully incorporated into the environment, this will increase public support. The future Environment and Planning Act will lead to a more development-oriented way of working and offers opportunities for the integration of heritage into other sectors, such as water, nature, the environment and infrastructure.

The old providing guidance for the new

The challenge facing policymakers and spatial planners is to determine the value of heritage in relation to other functions, in which heritage and these functions reinforce each other when planning an area, town or district. Making heritage part of the spatial process from the beginning allows attractive elements to be preserved and, at the same time, the old can provide guidance for the new. Sometimes choosing for heritage also means letting go. What do you want to keep and in which form, and what can make way for something new?

Heritage offers planners an opportunity to learn from the past

Heritage teaches us about spatial planning in times gone by. How have spatial structures developed? What effects did economic growth and decline have on the landscape over the centuries? Which measures did we take in the towns and cities to keep flooding under control? Such developments not only determine the identity of our living environment, but can also serve as inspiration for future spatial planning work. In addition, an analysis of an area's past (usage) can help provide a basis and direction for the future story. For example, a 'biography of a shopping street' can help give that street a new use from a cultural-historical perspective. Another example is that of Rhenen local authority, which had a study done into the main qualities of the town as a centre for reconstruction and used the results in its new zoning plan.

Heritage connects

Developing with heritage offers opportunities for synergy More and more frequently there is a need to connect, to create synergies between local, regional and national developments, or to switch between long-term strategies and implementation projects. For example, the Villages Academy in the province of Groningen is connecting residents, government bodies and professionals who are working on the quality of life in villages in regions where the population is declining. Usually heritage plays an important role in this. Since 2016 the emphasis has been on the cooperation and connection between the initiators, government bodies and institutes.

Heritage builds bridges between various domains

Heritage can also be used to build bridges between various domains. One example is the listed building known as the Westhal which is part of the former ENKA factory in Ede that has been transformed into an energy-generating cycling experience, or the 19th century mill known as De Hersteller which functions as a wind turbine. Then there is the link between the green environment and heritage, as in the municipality of Hengelo, which wants to make the green environment of the reconstruction districts more attractive in order to preserve their original green character. Another example is the creating of connections between heritage and business. For example, the ancient Weiwerd terp was given a new use and the plots where houses and farms once stood are being offered for sale to knowledge companies from the chemical, energy, waste management and recycling sectors.

Post-war policy was aimed primarily at protecting and preserving heritage. In the 1980s and 1990s urban regeneration was the main determining factor. The conversion of old industrial cities into new service centres was accompanied by a growing interest in built and rural heritage. In recent years there has also been a growing and worldwide interest in sustainable development which has led to greater awareness of the possibilities offered by heritage for the development of lively and viable towns and cities and landscapes. Dealing carefully with the existing stock of buildings and reducing polluting waste flows is now high on the policy agenda. That development is reflected in the current government's plans. For example, the letter entitled Culture in an open society states that heritage must be used for current spatial tasks, such as the energy transition, climate adaptation, the construction of new homes in towns and cities and in areas in which the population is declining.

The government is focusing on strengthening the relationship between heritage, space and the living environment within the framework of processes such as the Environment and Planning Act, the National Environmental Vision (NOVI), the Delta Programme, the Energy Agreement and the Climate Agreement. One example of the relationship between heritage and the living environment is the spatial plan for the IJsselmeer area, where a great deal of attention is being paid to both the strength of design in climate and energy projects and the past cultural-historical values of the former Zuiderzee. Within the framework of the NOVI the government is working on shaping the environmental quality.

The government is also continuing to invest in finding new uses for monuments, with special attention being paid to listed churches. For example, the government is continuing the subsidy scheme for this and is expanding the conversion scheme by also making subsidies available for energy scans. In addition, the government considers it important to preserve industrial heritage. The far reaching urbanisation process is causing the 'frayed edges' of towns and cities to disappear. Places where once artists set the tone as pioneers and produced work autonomously are making way for restaurants and apartments. The government considers it important that space is preserved for creativity in towns, villages and in the countryside. Industrial heritage can offer opportunities to realise this.

Subsidy scheme for change of use

The Agency has set up a subsidy scheme to encourage change of use. Owners can apply for a subsidy for a feasibility study into the possibilities for changing the use of a listed building. The subsidy is intended for owners of structures which are not readily suitable for a different type of use. Good examples are churches, industrial buildings, schools, farm buildings, monasteries and castles. These can also be buildings that do not have a listed status. Subsidy is also available for these buildings to make them windproof and waterproof during the planning phase.

Develop with heritage

On the Develop with Heritage page at Heritage and space you can find all kinds of information that will help you develop while taking account of heritage. One example is an overview of national and regional partners which local authorities may deal with, the jurisprudence relating to developing with heritage, the legislation and the set of instruments.

Tackling heritage in areas with a declining population

Six instruments that can be used in plans in areas in which the population was declining can be found on the Heritage and space page and will support policy makers and administrators within the framework of an area-oriented approach. In areas in which the population is declining the focus is not on giving a single empty building a new function, but on the economic or social development of an entire area.

New use for shopping streets with vacant premises

The Biography of the shopping street which can be found on Heritage and space provides guidelines for determining how an old shopping street with vacant premises can be revived. Cultural-historical awareness can help to change a shopping landscape from 'place to buy ' to 'place to be'.

Reallocating involving religious heritage

The digital platform entitled The future of Religious Heritage continues to build on the results of the Future of Religious Heritage Agenda (2014-2016). The platform offers news, opinion, knowledge and space for discussion and collaboration in the field of religious heritage. You will also find practical examples there.

Heritage in the Environmental Vision

Heritage in the environmental vision: an overview of digital knowledge and inspiration sources provides a clickable overview of knowledge and inspiration sources by the Cultural Heritage Agency which may help you tell the unique story of your municipality and recorded in an environmental vision.

More inspiration

If you're looking for more inspiration, you should study the of the Cultural Heritage Agency. See how our future acquires a past thanks to heritage and how work can be done in various ways to ensure the preservation of heritage and the development of and with heritage.