Lancaster Cultural Heritage Strategy
The Lancaster Musuem in Market Square Lancaster
Following a meeting of its Cabinet in July 2011 Lancaster City Council has now adopted the Lancaster Cultural Heritage Strategy as the framework for prioritising actions and investment in the district’s cultural heritage assets.
The strategy is a guide to investment in the district's cultural heritage over the next 10 years.
It is accompanied by an assessment of the economic impact that investment in our heritage could achieve.
The main focus of the strategy is the city of Lancaster, its built heritage, the stories behind it and the way it is interpreted, especially through the museums and other visitor attractions.
The strategy sets out a number of key objectives for Lancaster’s heritage that all partners need to work towards. These include managing Lancaster’s Georgian buildings, improving the existing heritage offer and developing the castle as a must-see attraction, raising the profile of Lancaster and promoting it as a modern heritage city.
The strategy also recognises the value of heritage to the identity of Morecambe and the district as a whole.
Development of the strategy was overseen by a steering group of officers from Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council, the Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board and NWDA, to whom the consultants reported.
The process of developing and consulting on the strategy coincided with a change of Government in May 2010 leading to decisions to abolish the regional development agencies and regional strategies, and to an outlook of curtailed public spending. This has caused uncertainties about the scale and pace of future investment in the heritage.
The Lancaster Cultural Heritage Strategy and Action Plan are available to download from the right-hand side of the web page.
How Lancaster matches up as a heritage city
The strategy states that Lancaster has a low profile as a heritage destination and for most people is not on the radar as a choice for a visit or a break. The most successful heritage cities have a ‘rounded’ offer, combining strong heritage attractions that are fun as well as educational with plenty of other things to do and see. These can include distinctive retail and eating offers and attractive hotel accommodation in historic settings, well-cared for public realm that is easy to find one’s way around on foot and in many cases an attractive, busy waterfront.
From that starting point the strategy undertakes a detailed audit of the heritage features and attractions of Lancaster and Morecambe, considering the extent to which they generate visits and satisfy the expectations of visitors and residents.
The strategy identifies shortfalls in the way the public realm is presented and interpreted, the lack of a must-see attraction and the challenges of a cluster of fairly small museums that have had little recent investment. It notes the desirability of a stronger retail and hospitality offer and of a cultural and festivals programme of quality that could achieve wider recognition.
National strategic policy on tourism, economic development and planning recognises that heritage contributes strongly both to the quality of life and to the economy. Regionally and locally, the special quality of the cultural heritage of the city of Lancaster is recognised as distinctive and a basis for investment and promotion.
Research suggests that the greatest economic value of the heritage derives from the attractiveness of townscapes rather than individual ‘heritage attractions’. Townscapes that have retained a large number of historic buildings are substantially more popular places to spend leisure time and are likely to be more popular also as places to live, to work and to study.
City Centre Signpost
Recent visioning studies for the Lancaster District and consultees for this strategy have argued that the cultural heritage of Lancaster is insufficiently known and appreciated. They assert that improvements need to be made to the infrastructure and public realm.
While the Castle is seen as a potential centrepiece of Lancaster, its operation as an attraction is severely constrained. There is criticism of the range and quality of other visitor attractions in Lancaster, and that they seem not to be a central part of city life. So there is a sense of great potential in the heritage, as yet not fully realised.
The study directly contributes to one of the five key themes of the regeneration framework:
Place shape Lancaster City and riverside as a regionally significant visitor and shopping destination and a competitive employment destination with an outstanding waterfront.
- Developing Lancaster as a Heritage City
- Enhancing the City’s Public Realm
- Delivering a step-change in the City’s retail offer.
- Freeing up the visitor potential of Lancaster Castle
- Developing the City as a major cultural centre through enhancements to the Duke’s and Grand Theatres and the creation of a centre for creative industries in the Storey Institute
- Achieving a major environmental upgrade of the Lune waterfront and vacant and under-used land in the Lune area.
The strategy is intended to also complement a number of other key projects which are under detailed development or recently completed:
- Lancaster Square Routes – focusing on public realm improvements and connectivity within the urban fabric
- £100 million city centre retail expansion to the NW of the city centre, led by developer Centros
- Luneside East and Lancaster riverfront – a major mixed use urban regeneration scheme extending downstream and westwards from the city centre and St George’s Quay.
- The recent re-opening of Storey Institute Creative Industries Centre, including the new strategic Lancaster Visitor Information Centre.
- In Morecambe, the refurbished Midland Hotel and nearby Winter Gardens Theatre also represent key heritage projects which can benefit from being linked into a district wide heritage strategy.
- Strategic Objectives
The strategy sets out a number of key objectives for the heritage all partners in Lancaster need to work towards:
- To manage, care for and present Lancaster’s key assets, especially its Georgian buildings and townscapes, to the highest standards
- To aim for a must see-attraction– the Castle with extended access – and connect it strongly with improved heritage attractions in the city
- To develop and enhance the amenities and experiences that visitors and locals expect to find in a modern heritage city
- To retain and restore the character of Morecambe’s urban fabric and rural hinterland as it adapts to modern needs as a place to live and to visit
- To raise and sharpen Lancaster’s profile, promoting it specifically as a modern heritage city and a university city, so that it is as least as well known as other small heritage cities
- To strengthen partnership working to implement the Cultural Heritage Strategy
The strategy itself was developed with a wide consultation and stakeholder engagement. A consultation draft version of the Strategy and Action Plan was circulated and published inviting comments from the member of the public and the business community. Copies were placed in the council’s Customer Service Centres and in libraries and the consultation was also highlighted via the council’s corporate Facebook page and Twitter feed. A total of 26 responses were received. A copy of the full text of consultation submissions, and the consultant’s response to the main points raised is available to download on the right hand side of the webpage.
Funding for the strategy development was provided by Lancaster District Local Strategic Partnership and the North West Development Agency.