Terraced housing
Terraced housing in Latchmere Road, Battersea, London © Historic England DP149077
Terraced housing in Latchmere Road, Battersea, London © Historic England DP149077

Heritage Boost to England’s Economy Revealed in New Report

A new report published today by Historic England has revealed the vital contribution of heritage to England's economic prosperity. Heritage is an important source of employment and draws millions of visitors each year. England's unique collection of historic buildings provides premises for businesses, homes for residents and can help reverse decline in town centres.

The latest statistical data [1] has been collected and analysed for Historic England and is published today in a new report: 'Heritage and the Economy 2017'. It shows that in England:

  • Heritage directly contributed £11.9 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) (the measure of the value of goods and services produced in an area, industry or sector of the economy.) This is equivalent to 2% of national GVA
  • There are 278,000 people employed in heritage
  • Heritage tourism generated £16.4 billion in spending by domestic and international visitors
  • Repair and maintenance of historic buildings directly generated £9.6 billion in construction sector output

Adala Leeson, Head of Social and Economic Research at Historic England, said: "England's historic environment provides jobs, attracts tourists and contributes to the construction sector and Gross Value Added.  It's intrinsically linked to the whole country's economic prosperity. Our new report shows the value that heritage brings to England. It's not just about money. We are growing the ways in which we can measure the social benefits that heritage brings through the sense of identity and belonging that it gives communities. We have also calculated that volunteers dedicate £520m in the hours they give towards day-to-day protection of our built heritage."

Heritage and Tourism

England's history and heritage are a big draw for tourism and, nationally, they generated £16.4bn in visitor spending in 2015. Heritage is a key part of the UK 'brand', and, in recent research [2] the country was ranked 5th out of 50 nations in terms of being rich in historic buildings and monuments.  Heritage tourism has been growing and is forecast to grow further in the future. It benefits the local economy too, as for every £1 spent as part of a heritage visit, 32p is spent on site and the remaining 68p in local restaurants, cafes, hotels and shops.

Heritage and Regeneration

Local buildings add to the unique character of an area and help to foster a sense of community which in turn attracts people and businesses. Investing in historic places generates economic returns for the area with on average £1 of public sector expenditure on heritage-led regeneration generating £1.60 in additional economic activity over a ten year period. One in five visitors spends more in an area after investment in historic buildings.

Case study: Spiral of decline reversed in Derby

In 2008, Derby's historic centre was in a state of serious neglect. A new shopping centre on the outskirts had drawn visitors away and vacancy rates had risen to 40% in the Sadler Gate area. Working in partnership with Derby City Council, Historic England used Derby's unique historic character to drastically transform the city centre's fortunes by attracting new investment and businesses, lowering shop vacancy rates and increasing footfall on the high streets. Grants were offered to renovate shop fronts. Overall 97 properties were repaired, 2757 sq m of commercial space was brought back into use and 42 new jobs were created. Occupancy is now at 100% and the scheme has reversed the spiral of decline in Derby, culminating in it winning 'Best City Centre High Street' last year.

Heritage and Business

Historic buildings provide premises for 138,000 businesses representing 5% of all employment in the UK. They provide the perfect premises for the growing creative industries as they offer flexible and distinctive work spaces. Creative and cultural industries are 29% more likely to be found in a listed building.

Case study: 19th century transit shed converted to creative hub in Bristol

At the entrance to Bristol's Harbourside, a film, culture and digital media centre, Watershed, is housed in a Grade II listed building. It's an important part of Bristol's growing Creative Economy and houses three cinemas, a café, conference and events space. At its heart is a 19th century transit shed which has been converted into a studio.

Heritage and Construction

Repair and maintenance of historic buildings is equivalent to 7% of construction output nationally. A shortage of skilled heritage professionals could affect the wider economy and has been identified as a risk to major projects such as the restoration of the Houses of Parliament. There is a looming skills crisis as the workforce ages and the number of apprentices and trainees in heritage-related craft skills drops. A shortage of archaeologists could affect projects such as HS2 and major road improvements.

Heritage and Volunteering

Volunteering at heritage organisations represents 6% of all voluntary work in England. It's essential for the day-to-day running of those organisations and is estimated to be worth £ 520m nationally.

Heritage and Social Value

Expressing the value of heritage in purely economic terms underestimates the full value of heritage to individuals, communities and the nation as a whole. It has a social value which is expressed in a sense of identity, belonging and place. Alternative methods for valuing the benefits of heritage have been developed recently, such as applying a monetary value to visiting heritage sites by looking at the wellbeing that it gives people (£1,646 per person per year).  These methods seek to express the hard-to-measure and intangible benefits of heritage.

Read the Heritage and the Economy report


1. Ortus has estimated the regional economic impact of heritage for 2014 using the latest available statistical data which is from 2017

2. Anholt GfK Nations Brand Index (VisitBritain, 2016)