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Historic buildings make us feel good; Study shows sites create sense of place.

Byline: Tony Henderson

HOW the North East's heritage helps boost the quality of life in the region was revealed yesterday. The results of a study by Newcastle University was part of Heritage Counts 2009, the annual report on the state of the historic environment, published by English Heritage on behalf of the whole heritage sector.

The Government recently acknowledged the impact of the design and condition of places on crime levels, social well-being and regeneration.

But until yesterday there has been no solid evidence of a link between living in an area with historic features and how content and connected people feel to a place.

The research by Newcastle University's Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies explored the role the historic environment plays in creating a stronger sense of place.

Sense of place refers to satisfaction felt by people about where they live and a sense of being part of a community. The Newcastle study showed the historic environment has a significant and positive relationship to sense of place and that people who are interested in the historic environment are more likely to have a stronger sense of place, as are those who can cite a local building or monument as being special.

Baroness Andrews, chairman of English Heritage, said: "This evidence shows without a doubt our historic environment adds to community happiness."

Prof Mike Coombes of Newcastle University said: "The research has produced the first robust statistical answer to the question of whether historic buildings are important to people and their communities.

"We have found that living in an area with more historic buildings has an impact - along with being interested in the built environment - in strengthening people's sense of place. A strong sense of place is very widely seen to help people's well-being and also to be important for the social cohesion of communities. In this way the research gives robust evidence of social benefits fostered by the historic built environment."

The enthusiasm for heritage in the North East is shown by figures show September's Heritage Open Days in Tyne and Wear attracted a record 59,000 visits to 207 buildings and events, compared to 19,500 to 84 properties in 2002. The number of English Heritage members in the North East is now 44,749, up 3% on the previous year. The National Trust's North East and Yorkshire region also now has 361,207 members, a rise of 5% from 2007-08.

And there were 1,879,000 visits to historic visitor attractions in the region in 2007-08.


BIG DRAWDurham University''s Palace Green Library was one of many places to take part in September's Heritage Open Days event.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 23, 2009
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