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HER Forum Winter Meeting, York Road Centre, Leamington Spa, 10th December 2009

View from the Chair:
Stuart Cakebread, Greater London SMR

Happy New Year to you all, and welcome to the first View from the Chair of the “Teens” and the last from me before the reins of power pass into the capable hands of Chris Webster. 

Well it’s been an interesting decade and one of great change.  We’ve seen the introduction of The Future of the Past: Guidelines for Historic Environment Records (now in its second edition); Power of Place; greater use of GIS and databases (now commonplace); OASIS, and the rise of online HER data, either through individual initiatives, the ADS or the Heritage Gateway. Over the last few years we’ve seen first the long awaited Heritage Bill, then out of is ashes HPR, and most recently the forthcoming PPS15. 

Looking back over the programmes for the last few years it seems that there has been only Cardiff ’08 and Huntingdon ‘09 where there has not been at least one presentation on changes to HERs through either the Bill or HPR. We’ve looked at the implications of the proposed changes to HERs and ways of better interaction with our conservation colleagues. At out last meeting in Leamington Spa, it was interesting to focus for a change on a group which perhaps we’ve neglected a little: the public.  We were presented with some great ideas which have certainly given me as, a manager of an HER with potentially a diverse public audience, but with whom there is little interaction currently, something to think about. I hope all who could make the meeting found the presentations interesting. There is more on the work of the Bristol City HER and other HER access and outreach activities discussed in EH’s Local Authority SMR-HER Development Case Studies guide due out late Spring/early Summer 2010.   

During my time as Chair I hope that we’ve brought you an interesting selection of presentations and a wider spread of venues not just in England: We’ve certainly tried to and much of this has been down to Nick Davis who I would like to thank, once again, for all his help and assistance in arranging the speakers and venues. From a personal point of view I think the few themed meetings we had worked well, although I can see that some of the themes may not have been to everyone’s taste and some prefer a more mixed programme.  That said where we have had themed meetings there has always been at least two presentations which have been off theme so there has always been the opportunity to give a presentation on something topical or even just something an HER is currently doing. Also with regards to speakers, sometimes it can seem as though there are a high proportion of speakers from national bodies, but it’s very much a case of who’s willing to volunteer to speak. So if we want more presentations from a local or regional perspective we need more HEROs, or people involved with them, to volunteer to speak. I’m sure Chris has some ideas to develop future meetings, but if you have any suggestions for future talks or would like to give a talk yourself please let Chris or Nick know.

Finally, looking back through the first edition of SMR News for 2000 I noticed that as part of the 2000 SMR GIS and database survey there was a negative response to renaming SMRs, but that if a new name was used the most popular choice was HER.  Well we’re all HERs now, although there are still a few of us SMRs left in name anyway. I wonder what we might be called in the future, and what changes are in store for us over the next 10 years?


Explosions, Conspiracies and Roman Robberies - a novel approach to archaeology
Christina Evans, Archaeological Project Manager,
Warwickshire Historic Environment Record

During the last four years Warwickshire Historic Environment Record has worked hard to develop archaeological outreach projects aimed at increasing people’s understanding of their heritage and public access to the service.  To achieve this we have trialled various different projects.  These have included archaeological comics; using our resources in schools; updating and improving Timetrail (our online HER); producing toolkits to help people research their heritage and creating museum exhibitions.

These projects have only been achieved through successful partnerships, securing external funding and making sure they are sustainable.  This talk will introduce some of projects highlighted above and identify lessons the HER has learnt along the way.

Getting out there: Outreach approaches and developments
Jane Golding, English Heritage, NMR Access & Community Officer 

There are many excellent examples of outreach activity by HERs. Enhancement of the HER role as part of the reforms to the Heritage Protection System is set to open up further opportunities for deeper levels of community engagement – both to strengthen and deepen relationships with existing audiences and also to engage more diverse and hard-to reach groups.

To extend the capacity of HER Officers to meet this challenge, the NMR is proposing to facilitate a working party to pool experience, share best practice and learn from each other. 

Here are some of the issues the group may want to explore:

  • What are our priorities? We want to widen access to HER information but should we also be concerned to broaden the record so that no one section of the community feels misrepresented or ignored?
  • How can we take advantage of web 2.0 technologies that come with the expectation that users will be able to co-author and share materials?
  • Do we understand the relationship between digital exclusion and social exclusion? 

There is much we can share:

  • Case studies that highlight best practice but also illustrate learning from things that did not go so well and identify gaps in our knowledge.
  • Shadowing and training opportunities
  • Learning from other sectors, sources of information and useful web addresses
  • Community contacts and ideas on how to identify and develop target audiences 

The working party will develop a resource toolkit and support a pilot project to build expertise. For further information and to take part: email Jane Golding at


Heritage Protection Reform – Where are we now?
Gareth Wilson, English Heritage, Local Engagement 

The sector has been disappointed that Heritage Protection legislation did not make it into this parliamentary session.  There is however a commitment by the current government to bringing forward the Heritage Protection Bill at the earliest available opportunity.  There have also been some positive statements made by opposition government.  English Heritage continues to push for this primary legislation.  There are however many reforms that can be made without the need for legislation and some progress has been made on these.

Policy & Guidance Documents  - A number of new policies and guidance documents are being produced notability Planning Policy Statement 15, Principles of Selection and Integrated Selection Guides, The CLG World Heritage Planning Statement and the Ecclesiastic Exemption Guide.

Simplifying the Designation & SMC Process  - DCMS and EH have worked together to improve the Designation and Scheduled Monument Consent process to improve efficiency, transparency and accountability.

Online Designation & a Single, Integrated, Accessible Database of Heritage Assets –  An online application form for designation will be made available on the EH website in April 2010 and a map/GIS enabled application form will be available from December 2010.  The ability to make and monitor applications for designation online, using the EH corporate website will be available by end of December 2010, An online search of the List of Heritage Assets: listed buildings, scheduled ancient monuments, register of parks and gardens, register of battlefields, protected wreck sites and World Heritage Sites will be available by the end of 2010, along with a download capability which will be refined during 2011. 

Pilot Heritage Partnership Agreements  - two waves of pilots have been started and EH is looking at lessons learned in order to develop guidance and training for later in 2010.

Clearer list entries -  A long term project is being undertaken to revisit older list entries and bring them up to our new standard. 

Support for Historic Environment Records  - we are developing case studies and training for later in 2010 to promote understanding and engagement.

Local Listing and Outreach - English Heritage is in the process of developing non-statutory best practice guidance for local authorities and their communities for the identification and management of local heritage assets and the consolidation of these assets as a local list. Local listing represents a good opportunity to involve local people in the management of the historic environment at the local level. Guidance will give local authorities and their communities the confidence they need to make decisions on local heritage assets at the local level and will encourage: a more consistent approach to the identification and management of local heritage assets; a move away from the 'buildings-led' approach to local listing to encompass the full scope of assets that make up the historic environment; the proper validation and recording of local heritage assets; the submitting of local lists to appropriate levels of public consultation; and improved access to local lists via HERs.


Update on PPS15
Rachel Prosser, English Heritage, HPR Training Officer

PPGs 15 (buildings) and 16 (archaeology) are in need of revision.  The separation of archaeology from historic buildings is not helpful and best practice is now significantly ahead.  Consultation on the draft PPS15 ended on 30 Oct 2009, and redrafting is well underway. CLG are aiming to launch in Spring 2010.

Notable changes in the PPS include a single policy approach to all plan-making and decision-making as it affects the historic environment, and a clear statement that it covers designated, non-designated and not-capable-of-being designated assets.  The PPS will be a short policy document plus a Practice Guide. 

References to HERs in the PPS are likely to remain unchanged.  EH is working with IHBC & ALGAO to produce a HPR Compliant HER Strategy for 2010 – 2015.  Each year will have an implementation plan commencing in February 2010, this plan will cover available funding.


Taking the HER to School
Peter Insole, Bristol City Council

In 2002, the Users and their Uses of HEIRs project was commissioned by the Historic Environment Information Resources Network (HEIRNET) and the resulting report published by the Council for British Archaeology indicated that although there was widespread use of HEIRs, often in the design of research

projects the use of HEIR content by schools was very low (Users and their Uses of HEIRs, Cultural Heritage Consortium, Council for British Archaeology, 2002, p3). A number of reasons for this were identified based on a variety of responses from teachers and Historic Environment practitioners. In the years since this report the degree of use of HER data within schools has generally remained unchanged despite continued curriculum developments that are focused on more thematic learning, skills development and a greater understanding of the local environment.

In Bristol we have decided to directly tackle this issue and develop a variety of methodologies for embedding the use of HER data within school curricula. Our case studies cover some of the issues that historic environment records face when trying to increase the use of their data in schools. These issues include how to tailor complex historic environment data to very specific curriculum objectives and the problem of how to effectively resource HER school projects at a time when local authority resources are under increasing pressure. The majority of these projects have been focused on Primary education where learning schemes tend to be thematic rather than subject specific. It has been shown that HER data can be used as a learning tool for even the youngest children and that a thematic curriculum means that the HER can enable the implementation of meaningful and engaging schemes of work that facilitate the development of key skills.


Local vs National – the importance of local involvement in heritage records
Chris Webster, Somerset County Council

Second World War archaeology forms a useful case study for the involvement of the local community in improving heritage records at a local and national level. Somerset has seen several initiatives that provide both good and bad examples of this. The Defence of Britain (DoB) project was poorly managed in Somerset (with little HER involvement), which led to many problems of locational accuracy and confusions over identity. These were later compounded by data “cleaning” which attempted to remove duplications in the DoB data but in some instances, because of a lack of local knowledge and checking, succeeded in removing parts of grouped items. There have also been problems with NMR aerial survey, where familiarity with other parts of the country has led to mis-identification of sites. These could have been avoided by greater links with the local HER and workers. Not that they are perfect! There are now several sites devoted to Somerset pillboxes, many of which peddle the same myths that have been exploded by recent research. Locational accuracy is still a problem, although cheap GPS systems are altering this but the combination of the HER with its rigorous (I hope) data checking and standards, particularly its access to large scale mapping and aerial photographs, and local researchers with growing expertise, commitment, contacts – and above all else, time – is a winning formula.


Outreach : Lincolnshire Heritage at Risk Project, Heritage Lincolnshire
Liz Bates, Heritage Trust of Lincolnshire and Crispin Flower, exeGesIS SDM

This innovative project will create a county-wide network of volunteer Heritage Stewards who will carry out a large scale investigation of the survival and condition of Lincolnshire's heritage. These volunteers are trained to survey all types of heritage assets and feed the information into an 'at risk' register, giving an unprecedented level of information about Lincolnshire's historic environment and informing a strategy for its management. During the first stage of the project in 2009, exeGesIS developed a web site for the project, making sure data on the heritage assets is drawn live from the Lincolnshire County HER wherever possible, rather than being duplicated in a separate database. The site is designed to allow the project staff to manage all aspects of the project in one place, so as well tools for signing up and managing volunteers and training courses, it has a news page, events calendar and other supporting functions. The core of the site feeds live data from the Lincolnshire HER into an interactive map, allowing volunteers to find sites/buildings they want to survey, and to download and print a user-friendly “survey pack”. Once the fieldwork has been done, other pages in the web site allow the volunteers or staff to enter the results, and to analyze the complete dataset as it accumulates. Crispin demonstrated the web site, and then Liz outlined the background to the project and progress with volunteer training and surveys during the pilot phase. Heritage Lottery Funding will allow this project to run for 3 years with a dedicated team of staff and the project is also supported by English Heritage, Lincolnshire County Council and other local partners.

For more information about the project visit or telephone Liz on 01529 461499. Crispin at exeGesIS can be contacted on 01874 713072, or through