The value of the Historic Environment

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

Heritage Delivers

The heritage sector has collaborated to develop a publication and website to show how Northern Ireland’s historic environment supports our prosperity, strengthens our society, and shapes our character. That heritage delivers ‘prosperity, progress and personality’. It examines how heritage helps business growth, tourism, and attracting investment. It considers how it helps to regenerate neglected areas, create local jobs and promote a sense of community. It examines how, by investing in heritage, we are protecting and celebrating the character of our region and its people.

NI Heritage Statistics

The heritage sector has also collaborated to publish statistics that help to reinforce this message. Illustrated with case studies, this examines the extent of Northern Ireland’s historic environment and its known condition; how change to this resource is being managed; and how it is helping to contribute to a range of economic, social and environmental outcomes.

Economic value

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 research was published 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

Economic impact from heritage is not just a result of tourism. It also helps to deliver places where people want to live and businesses want to locate, it can provide an environment that helps to nurture business growth and attract new business and create jobs. However, further statistics easily available on tourism are published on page 39 of the document ‘NI Heritage Statistics as recorded on 31 March 2019’ which help to illustrate that some of the potential indicated in 2012 has been realised in the intervening period.

Social value

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. NI Heritage Statistics shows  how visiting heritage or volunteering a heritage sites is good for our health and wellbeing; how it can help tackle rural isolation; how it can be a catalyst for creativity and make an important contribution to education.

Environmental Value

Historic buildings, monuments and landscapes are key parts of our environment. They are also a finite resource that if lost cannot be regenerated. NI Heritage Statistics examines how carrying out maintenance or improvements to these assets can have very positive results across a range of indicators. It also considers the contribution that heritage can make to reducing whole life carbon emissions from buildings and helping to combat climate change.

Heritage Audits

In 2018 and 2019 DfC Historic Environment Division and Heritage Lottery Fund commissioned Northern Ireland Environment Link to conduct heritage audits of a number of local areas in Northern Ireland. The intention was to examine the heritage assets in the areas, the organisations involved in the management and use of the assets, and the benefits being derived from them. The exercise proved very valuable in recommending further opportunities for realising economic and community value from heritage.

Capitalising Upon Heritage Potential.

The Department has been working closely with stakeholders and partners to help realise the potential that heritage can offer for cities and communities. NI Heritage Statistics records the wide range of initiatives that are currently under way.

In 2017 Tourism NI commissioned research on the potential of heritage to contribute to tourism

In 2010, in support of Derry~Londonderry’s bid for the UK City of Culture, 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 at that time. This looked at a number of different initiatives in the area and considered their collective impact. This work has continues with the Department developing its work on the City Walls supporting a three year pilot for a Heritage Development Officer in the Derry City and Strabane District Council Area, supporting the Inner City Trust’s Heritage Led Regeneration conference in 2018, and the Heritage Trust Network’s conference in 2019.

Structure and contacts

View the Historic Environment Division structure and contacts

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