View from the top of Auckland Tower from north east.
HE0014 Bishop Auckland HAZ (Historic Area Assessment) 1c-3 Market Place, Bishop Auckland, County Durham. © Historic England Archive. DP234715.
HE0014 Bishop Auckland HAZ (Historic Area Assessment) 1c-3 Market Place, Bishop Auckland, County Durham. © Historic England Archive. DP234715.

Public Views on the Protection of the Historic Environment

Part of the Heritage Counts series. 4 minute read.

Our heritage tells the story of how societies have evolved over time. Caring for it inspires the lives of current and future generations through learning from the achievements of past generations.

A majority of adults across England visit heritage regularly, and evidence shows that people care about heritage and want to see it protected. They want to see our historic assets maintained to prevent them from falling into disrepair, securing their existence for future generations.

People care about heritage and want to see it protected

  • In a nationally representative survey of 2,000 members of the public, 81% of people said that ‘looking after historic buildings, monuments and archaeology to safeguard the places people love’ was personally important to them (Britain Thinks, 2022). The survey was conducted on behalf of the Heritage Fund and shows widespread public support for heritage protection
  • Historic England’s recent survey of Listed Building owner/occupiers (BMG, 2022) shows that the people who live in listed buildings care about, and look after, their homes. The majority (89%) agreed that their home is important to the character of the local area and reported keeping on top of regular maintenance and repairs (86%)
  • A comparison survey of residents of Conservation Areas shows that planning controls that seek to protect our historic environment are viewed positively. Over three-quarters agreed that Conservation Area designation is an effective way of protecting heritage and the character of the area (77% and 78%, respectively)

Members of the public support the restoration and reuse of historic buildings

There is public support for valuing and using what we already have. This stems from our appreciation of the beauty and quality of historic buildings, and recognition of their important role in maintaining civic pride and supporting new functions.

  • Seeing buildings fall into disrepair contributes to a decline in civic pride; thus, restoring and reusing historic buildings is viewed as a way of rejuvenating the local area. This emerged as a key finding from a qualitative study based on focus groups with residents of 6 towns (Public First, 2022)
  • A programme of public engagement designed to understand the public's view on the restoration of the Houses of Parliament found that people would prefer the building retains its historical features and its architecture be preserved over modernisation (Houses of Parliament, 2022)
  • A national survey of 1,731 adults in England conducted by YouGov on behalf of Historic England shows that 87% agreed that ‘finding new uses for historic buildings is better than demolishing them’ (YouGov, 2018)
  • Polling by Ipsos shows that the public is more inclined to prioritise maintaining and repairing existing infrastructure before spending on new infrastructure, with over half (56%) in agreement that we should prioritise maintenance and repair. Only 16% of respondents prioritise new infrastructure over repair and maintenance (Ipsos, 2020)

Heritage projects are viewed as a good use of public funding

  • This is illustrated by findings from a survey of 4,200 residents from 12 locations across the UK that had received Heritage Fund investment. 76% rated the funded projects in their area as good or excellent value for money (Britain Thinks, 2015)
  • There is an expectation for public authorities to invest further in heritage protection. According to a European Commission ‘Public Opinion’ survey of 1,368 UK residents, 66% agree that public authorities should allocate more resources to cultural heritage. (European Commission, 2018)


  1. BMG Research (2022) ‘Listed Building and Conservation Area Owner/Occupier Survey’. Available at: 2022 Listed Building and Conservation Area Owner/Occupier Survey ( (Accessed 23.02.23)
  2. Britain Thinks (2015) ‘20 Years in 12 Places: 20 years of Lottery funding for heritage. A report prepared by Britain Thinks for the Heritage Lottery Fund’. Available at: (Accessed: 23.02.23) 
  3. Britain Thinks (2022) National Lottery Heritage Fund Strategy Development Research. Available at: National Lottery Heritage Fund Strategy Development Research ( (Accessed 05.05.23).
  4. European Commission (2018) ‘Special Eurobarometer – Cultural Heritage’. Available at: Eurobarometer – Public opinion in the European Union (  (Accessed: 23.02.23)
  5. Houses of Parliament (2022) ‘Understanding the public view 2020-2022’. Available at: 
  6. Ipsos Mori (2010) ‘People and Places: Public Attitudes to Beauty’. On behalf of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. Available at: (Accessed 21.02.23)
  7. Ipsos Mori (2020) ‘‘Project Speed’ Infrastructure Preferences’. Available at (Accessed: 23.02.23)
  8. Public First (2022) ‘Heritage and civic pride: voices from levelling up country’. Available at: (Accessed: 23.02.23)
  9. YouGov, (2018) ‘Quality of Places Survey Results’. Available at: (Accessed: 23.02.23)