The Historic Environment's Role

The Historic Environment has an important role to play in the development of Northern Ireland’s economy and society.

Economic value

Contribution to tourism

All of the ‘Signature Projects’ promoted by TourismNI over the last 10 years have had a strong built heritage element. Their research has shown that historic monuments and buildings are a major draw - particularly for visitors from outside the region. There is scope to expand the tourism industry and good management and coordination of historic assets will help.

Added Value to regeneration schemes

Historic buildings and monuments provide great character to a place. Such character can have a positive impact upon rents and also upon the reputation of businesses or agencies located in them.

Attracting business

Inward investment is increasingly mobile. The historic environment helps to distinguish Northern Ireland from elsewhere. This can contribute to attracting business to the region.

Contribution of sector to economy

Significant funds are invested in the historic environment every year in Northern Ireland. This sustains jobs, skills and knowledge. 

In 2012 DOE published research in this area which established that:

  • NI historic environment generated circa £532 million of output per annum, created/sustained a total of circa 10,000 FTE jobs and generated circa £250million of Gross Value Add each year
  • in NI, the historic environment accounted for three jobs per thousand of the population compared to 8.1 in  the Republic of Ireland and 11.8 in Scotland
  • if the NI sector could perform at an equivalent rate to Scotland, it could generate £1.5 billion annually and support 20,000 jobs i.e. three times its 2012 output and twice as many jobs

Social value

Sense of place

Historic buildings, monuments and landscapes make a huge contribution to how Northern Ireland perceives itself. Forming less than 2% of our building stock, historic structures make up the principal features of towns, cities, villages and rural area.


Well conserved, our historic environment is often a source of pride to communities large and small across the region.

Quality of life indicators 

Attractive places to live contribute positively to such indicators. The historic environment, well conserved, is a key component.

Community harmony

Heritage is a common resource for all sections of society. It is also a repository of information about history and often a reminder that this was much more complex than commonly assumed.

Heritage Audits

DfC Historic Environment Division and Heritage Lottery Fund commissioned Northern Ireland Environment Link to conduct heritage audits of five areas – North Belfast, Armagh, Downpatrick, Upper Lough Erne and Strabane. The intention of the audits was to examine the heritage assets in the area, the organisations involved in the management and use of the assets, and the benefits being derived from them. The exercise has proved very valuable in recommending further opportunities for realising economic and community value from heritage. We are currently considering how best to take forward the reports’ recommendations, and to undertake audits of further areas.

Heritage led regeneration in the Derry City Council Area

In 2010 the Department published a booklet: Heritage Led Regeneration in the Derry City Council Area which highlighted efforts being made to capitalise on this potential in one part of Northern Ireland. This looked at a number of different initiatives in the area and considered their collective impact.

Structure and contacts

View the Historic Environment Division structure and contacts

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