7. Conservation of Fabric

7.1 Conservation Opportunities and Challenges

The extent, complexity and significance of the historic environment within the World Heritage Site (WHS) and the different uses, ownership and management and maintenance regimes demand the implementation of a comprehensive management infrastructure with both local and centralised responsibility and accountability with clear lines of communication.

7.2 Uses and Events

The WHS is home to the University and Cathedral and is a place of scholarship, worship and pilgrimage. It is also a popular leisure and visitor destination with a growing number of public events such as conferences, weddings, corporate dinners and public markets. It is very much a living site, balancing public contemplative areas and busy civic spaces, wildlife habitats (especially along the riverbanks), workplaces, homes and local businesses. A range of commemorative events take place on the site, and these include local events such as those related to the Durham Light Infantry and miners, as well as national events such as Remembrance Day.

Figure 7.1:  Durham Cathedral Shop

Figure 7.2:  Durham Cathedral Restaurant

Figure 7.3:  Durham Castle Walls Heritage and Condition Survey

7.2.1 A balance between conservation and use

As the usage of the WHS continues to intensify, it has become increasingly necessary to balance the desire to intensify its use with the need for conservation and repair in order to ensure these cherished places have a long-term secure future. It is becoming increasingly challenging to reconcile the use, values and traditions of the Cathedral and Durham University with the everyday demands of tourism, public access and public events that bring essential funding to the site.

There is common recognition that a careful balance needs to be sought between the different uses and the requirement for on-going adaptation to ensure the WHS has a viable and sustainable future. There is also serious recognition of the need for ‘downtime’ to create breathing space for planned maintenance, conservation and redecoration. Frequent care and upkeep not only ensure that the fabric of the buildings has a long-term future, but also that the aesthetic heritage values of the WHS are not compromised by a lack of care. Moreover, frequent attention to planned maintenance will reduce the frequency of more expensive and reactive repair or redecoration that often results, for example from blocked drainage systems. These savings could be reinvested in the WHS.

7.2.2 The need for sensitivity in new interventions

In some respects there is also a conflict between the practical and utilitarian nature of a number of the modern facilities across the WHS and that of the historic fabric, such as recently inserted or refurbished kitchens, WCs, offices etc. within ancient spaces. However, the new WHS Visitor Centre and Cathedral shop illustrate the potential for sensitively designed new fabric in historic settings, with the proviso that such initiatives are built upon foundations of understanding and appreciating the special qualities of the WHS.

7.2.3 Further references:

These challenges, and the strategic recommendations for addressing them, are set out and discussed in greater depth within the Framework Conservation Management Plans for Durham Cathedral (Purcell 2012) and Durham Palace Green (Purcell).


  • To allow periods of co-ordinated ‘downtime’ for essential maintenance, repair and redecoration, which should be planned on an annual basis, as well as for ‘breathing space’ for the communities and buildings of the WHS.;
  • To regulate the frequency, nature and impact of events and the numbers in visiting tour groups and other parties in order to protect the historic fabric and ambience of the WHS. Seek to disperse activities by extending the visitor offer;
  • Through the WHS Principal Landowners’ Group, to achieve joint decision making on major events and road closures that will have an impact on the fabric, environment, ambience and daily life of the WHS and to ensure that all events in the WHS enhance its character as a living, working site;
  • To implement the recommendations in the Durham Castle Walls and Riverbanks Gardens Conservation Management Plans (CMPs) and the Durham WHS Visitor Centre’s Business Plan including the development of guided walks, controlled public access and new signage and interpretation boards along the riverbanks;
  • To develop closer links between partners within the World Heritage Site to co-ordinate marketing, events and expertise. In addition to the various owners and managers, this could include Event Durham (Durham University), ‘This is Durham’ and Durham BID;
  • To increase intellectual access through the use of technology that can help ‘bring to life’ the stories of various components within the WHS making them more accessible. This could involve the creation of virtual tours for visitors with limited mobility following best practice used by Historic Royal Palaces and others. As technology develops and smart-phones become increasingly prevalent, exciting ways of immediately delivering stories and information direct to visitors' mobile phones look set to become the future of interpretive and remote access.;
  • To encourage and enable visitors to experience the wonder of being in the actual environment and buildings of the WHS and not just to experience it virtually thus missing the physical and emotional experience.

7.3 Ownership and Management

The Cathedral Chapter and Durham University are the two key landowners and managers of the historic estates on the WHS, while Durham County Council (DCC) is responsible for the public highway and much of public realm. There are, however, a number of other, smaller landowners and property managers for individual houses and businesses. The overall scale and complexity of the multiple management regimes has led to a communication network that is not always effective. This sometimes leads to confusion when planning and executing events and works, and a lack of consistency in the approach to wider management challenges. High-priority issues and risk management needs that are common across the site (such as emergency responders, maintenance of infrastructure, operations and traffic management) would therefore benefit from a dedicated management committee to draw the separate ownership strands together with a unified purpose. It is important to note that if the boundaries of the site are extended in future this will bring in a new group of landowners, thus increasing the potential for complexity.


  • To increase communication between the stakeholders of the WHS Co-ordinating Committee, through the creation of a Principal Landowners Group and a proactive management sub-committee to deal with operational issues.
  • To explore with the local authority the nomination of a ‘World Heritage Site Champion’ and provide necessary training and support.
  • To identify, provide and monitor staff training needs with the aim of raising the awareness of the significance of the historic fabric, the constraints imposed by the various local and statutory designations and the risks to the visual character of the WHS from modern unsympathetic interventions.
  • To agree a plan for the implementation and delivery of the recommendations within this report and within the recently produced Conservation Management Plans and historic buildings appraisals (HBAs) for the Castle Walls, Riverbanks, Cathedral, Claustral Buildings, Castle and Palace Green.

Figure 7.4:  Cathedral and Cloister Conservation Management Plans

7.4 Access and Traffic Management

7.4.1 Topography

Equality of access is an issue throughout the World Heritage Site. This encompasses the private and publicly-owned assets e.g. the Castle walls, promenades and other historic features along the riverbanks, the approach to the Cathedral and Castle (due to the steepness of the terrain and the cobbled streets at Owengate and Dun Cow Lane) and within and around the historic buildings themselves.

7.4.2 Traffic, Parking and Public Transport

Parking in the WHS is not permitted, except for University and Cathedral permit holders and, on Sundays on Palace Green, up to ten members of the Cathedral congregation with mobility issues. Parking is made available for certain civic occasions. Any other essential parking has to be arranged in advance with, and approved by, the relevant landowner. There is a Cathedral Bus to transport visitors along the route from the railway station and from the Sands Car Park to Palace Green but limited hours and the apparent difficulty in running to time reduce the effectiveness of this service. With only a single road on and off the Peninsula the stakeholders are endeavouring to reduce vehicular traffic. A Congestion Charge is levied by DCC in support of this aim but there are significant numbers of exempt vehicles and purposes and lists will need to be monitored regularly to ensure they are kept up to date.

Access by large vehicles (such as contractors undertaking upgrades to infrastructure or servicing lorries such as waste disposal Biffa lorries, telecoms and utility company works/reinstatement obligations) are an issue along the narrow roads especially early in the morning.

The problems include traffic congestion, broken kerbs from vehicles mounting the pavement which are unsightly and dangerous for pedestrians, as well as the slow and progressive damage caused to the stonework from vehicle emissions. There have also been incidents

of large vehicles colliding with projecting elements of buildings and cracking pavements, leading to costly repairs and the regrettable loss of primary fabric. The landowners will explore the feasibility of offloading goods from larger lorries, outside the peninsula, into smaller vehicles which, where possible, combine loads for onward transport onto the peninsula.

From time to time requests are made for road closures on the WHS to accommodate special events. Where it is agreed by the landowners that there is an essential reason for an event to take place in or near the WHS (thus including the Market Place) and it cannot be managed without a road closure, the presumption will be that it will be permitted and the road closure agreed so long as alternative access for essential vehicles is provided over Prebends Bridge for the duration of the closure of Saddler Street and North Bailey. However, where there is no essential reason for an event to pass through or be held in the WHS, because it has neither origin nor destination there and is unrelated to the life of the WHS, an alternative route or location for the event needs to be found and no road closure will be permitted. 

7.4.3 Historic Buildings

The historic buildings on the peninsula were built before the age when ample regard was given to people with limited mobility and many of the entrances to the historic buildings lack level access. Once inside the buildings there are often marked changes of level, usually the result of various modifications over time and/or the integration of two different properties into one. The constraints imposed by the importance of the historic fabric are problematic when considering the installation of lifts and internal ramps.

Figure 7.5:  Cathedral Bus

Figure 7.6:  Parking on Palace Green

Figure 7.7:  Proposed Lift Access to Open Treasure (Purcell)

Figure 7.8:  Decayed and replacement stone on the North Range as seen from the North Terrace, Castle (Purcell)


  • To plan to ensure access at all times to the WHS for emergency vehicles;
  • To support the continuation of the Cathedral Bus service and the extension of times/frequency of this in response to public demand e.g. special events, on Sundays and, at the end of the day and to link it to the Park and Ride car parks and bus services;
  • To develop a shared services strategy e.g. for waste disposal and food deliveries to rationalise service provision;
  • To retain and monitor the effectiveness of the Palace Green traffic management scheme;
  • To develop the use of walking buses to access the WHS, supported by designated off-site drop-off points exempt from parking restrictions for the purpose;
  • To continue to restrict the use of Palace Green for parking to prevent a negative impact on the aesthetic and townscape heritage values of the site;
  • To install lifts where possible in modern buildings, less significant areas or extensions in order to provide and improve equality of access. The new lift installed within the Cathedral’s Claustral Buildings provides an example of what might be acceptable depending both upon the justification and the sensitivity of the fabric affected;
  • To continue to maintain the riverside walk footpaths and resurface/level any substantial gradients where necessary as opportunities arise;
  • To review and attempt to improve access for disabled people to the World Heritage Site via Dun Cow Lane

7.5 Management of Works to the Fabric and Building Maintenance

Specialist stonemasons, joiners and other craftsmen are available within the in-house teams at the Cathedral and the University to help keep the buildings in good repair. However, the teams are presently too small to deal with large and complex issues, and insufficient funding and a lack of downtime (noted above) are site-wide issues that constrain regular proactive maintenance and repair of many of the buildings. This situation has resulted in significant condition issues and the erosion of historic detailing across the Peninsula, which is a threat to the historical and aesthetic heritage values of the WHS. For example, one of the key challenges facing the University is the current condition of stonework, notably at the Castle, Castle walls, Divinity House and the Almshouses.

The stonework in all these locations would benefit from a thorough and long-term programme of careful conservation and repair. While this has long been recognised as a major need, there is the ongoing problem of being able to deliver such works given the intense use and physical constraints of the site. Having scaffolding on view during key events, together with the effects of noise and dust from working, can often be regarded as detrimental to the presentation of the WHS and scaffolding in the road causes traffic congestion. 

However such short term considerations should not outweigh the need to deliver a cost-effective planned programme of remediation which will deal with the long term decay.

Figure 7.9:  Cathedral Joiners at work in the Monks’ Dormitory Restoration

Figure 7.10:  Durham Cathedral Quinquennial Review

7.5.1 The lack of specialist conservation knowledge

A further challenge is a lack of specialist training amongst some internal staff or contractors involved with caring for the historic fabric who have not been trained to recognise that even routine tasks e.g. internal redecoration requires specialist input from the preparation of a detailed specification to delivery. This has resulted in repeated poor practice, such as redecoration of historic buildings with modern, brilliant- white non-breathable paint and thick gloss paints that are incongruous and unsuitable. 

These kinds of issues are of concern across the WHS but particularly in relation to non-designated heritage assets which are generally perceived as less worthy of appropriate treatment than the Listed Buildings. Improvements to this situation are being addressed by the University and Cathedral through the development of apprenticeship programmes to train new practitioners and the provision of access to training opportunities for existing staff in traditional and conservation building skills.

7.5.2 The need for proactive maintenance

A final area of fabric management that demands consideration is regular care and planned maintenance. While some reactive maintenance will always be inevitable, the lack of proactive maintenance triggers ad hoc works, such as blocked gutter and vegetation clearance, and the remediation of any damage that has been generated as a result.

Since reactive work is more difficult to budget for and is almost always more expensive than proactive planned maintenance, this system also puts pressure on finances and upon the ability to undertake planned works.

There is a need for the implementation of a planned cyclical maintenance regime, as well as funds and sufficient craft-based resources to address conservation issues. On the Cathedral estate, the 2013 Quinquennial Inspection Report (QIR) for the Cathedral, Claustral Buildings and The College provides an up-to-date view on the condition of the site and recommendations. This is being worked into a costed programme for long-term repair and cyclical maintenance over the next 25 years.

Both the senior management teams at the University and Cathedral have made significant advances in their planned maintenance regimes by investing in suitably qualified staff to properly quantify the scope of works necessary over a 20-year period but acknowledge that there will be significant challenges to overcome to ensure delivery – not least the successful raising of finance.

Figure 7.11:  Environmental Monitoring in the Norman Chapel, Castle


  • To facilitate opportunities for collaboration between specialist craftsmen across the WHS, sharing skills and knowledge and working together on larger projects . This will require high-level agreement between the owners and managers from the Cathedral and University and its effectiveness will need to be regularly reviewed;
  • To produce, or commission the production of bespoke housekeeping manuals for the major properties with practical maintenance, conservation, and repair advice to ensure that an informed, dedicated team for the care of significant interior spaces continues to be developed;
  • To seek to remove any redundant modern intrusive features, such as service cabling, as part of any repair and/or renovation schemes. Also to deploy modern technology where this will be less visually intrusive, for example ‘smart cable’ which can carry power and data;
  • To develop and implement a cyclical proactive maintenance plan for the Castle, Cathedral and other buildings in the Palace Green estate and wider peninsula as soon as is practicable, and with dedicated funding appropriate to the necessary scale of the task, including fundraising in accordance with identified priorities. Such a plan will enable more frequent attention to upkeep and, in turn, a reduction in more reactive work that is not only disruptive but also more costly;
  • To monitor regularly the condition of the fabric, treating reports as living documents and updating them on a five-yearly basis in order to ensure that the management teams have the latest information on the fabric needs at their disposal, while also enabling any significant changes in condition to be recognised, monitored and acted upon if necessary. Taken as a whole, this shift in operations will help to improve safeguarding both the buildings and their users, residents and the WHS and its setting.;
  • To rationalise the use of contractors to reduce fragmentation in repair and maintenance, and seek to develop in-house repair and conservation teams;
  • To define and source budgets to implement the recommendations in the condition surveys for the Castle and Castle walls and the QI for the Cathedral - prioritising and implementing repair work where there are health and safety concerns and / or serious defects;
  • To favour the repair of historic fabric over the replacement with new fabric;
  • To develop a research programme in order to understand the mechanisms of decay and the most appropriate repair strategies to implement a long-term sustainable approach to the conservation of the fabric;
  • To implement, review and develop robust environmental monitoring and control for not only the care of the collections and exhibitions, but also for the wellbeing of the fabric in general. This should be subject to regular review;
  • To ensure that all mechanical and environmental plant supports environmental control strategies, and are appropriate for the fabric of the buildings and their contents.

7.6 Collections

The historic collections form an extremely valuable complement to the architectural heritage of the site, providing a wealth of information and artefacts relevant to its history, and to its continued flourishing as a place of scholarship and worship over the centuries. Significant investment has recently been undertaken to improve access and interpretation of the historic collections and, with the completion of the final stages of the refurbishment of Palace Green Library and the Cathedral’s current Open Treasure Project, the World Heritage Site will be in a very strong position to offer a unified top-rate experience of heritage buildings and collections.

7.6.1 Opportunities:

There are significant opportunities for the Cathedral and the University to continue to work collaboratively to benefit from the respective expertise and assets of the two institutions, and to make more of the collections accessible to visitors and residents, and deliver an engaging, multifaceted interpretation programme and digitising the Priory collection.

The provision of world class exhibition facilities at the Cathedral and University, and the excellent experience of the Lindisfarne Gospels Exhibition in 2013 have proven Durham’s ability to deliver first rate heritage exhibitions drawing upon the Durham collections and using them to showcase the outstanding history of the site. 

Such recent initiatives have outlined the potential for the collections to form a point of significant interest, and the value of short-term themed events.


  • To raise awareness of the significance of the collections held in various locations across the WHS and ensure adequate facilities and access for scholars;
  • To develop programmes to digitise the collections held across the WHS;
  • To make all existing inventories of the collections and catalogues for the archives and library available in electronic form as scholarly awareness is directly raised through improved accessibility;
  • To ensure regular and rigorous control and monitoring of environmental conditions within the key collection spaces of the WHS, vis. the Cathedral and Claustral Buildings, the Castle and Palace Green Library;
  • To develop and deliver a fundraising programme to ensure the continued well-being and display of the historic collections at the heart of the WHS.

Figure 7.12:  Open Treasure Proposed Display, Monks’ Dormitory, Cathedral (Purcell)

Figure 7.13:  Archaeological Excavations, Cathedral (J.Attle)

7.7 Recording of Works

The below-ground remains in the WHS, the structures, the collections and archives are a critical resource that is vulnerable to physical loss and deterioration. Methods must be in place to safeguard the fabric and any interventions must be carefully considered, with building recording and archaeological monitoring deployed during work where appropriate and records uploaded to the Historic Environment Database.

The statutory planning process requires that relevant repair works are appropriately monitored and supported and changes recorded. However, it is only recently that works not requiring consent to University buildings have been recorded as a matter of course and it is hoped that this practice can be adopted by other landowners.

At the Castle, recording work typically includes a drawn and photographic survey of the area in question, noting materials and construction. However, the graphic sequencing of the fabric into its constituent phases or an explanation of the relative significance of different fabric is not generally deemed to be a requirement of work. As a result, archaeological analysis generally reacts to repair, instead of informing it. Ideally there should be more frequent involvement of professional archaeologists, e.g. the Cathedral Archaeologist or those from the Archaeology Department.


  • To commission and undertake more thorough archaeological surveys of the stonework at the Cathedral, Castle and Palace Green, before the commencement of repairs. This should consider the historic sequence of the fabric and its significance. Although the decision to replace a stone is ultimately a response to practical needs and condition, having information on its age and importance can be invaluable when making borderline decisions on whether or not a stone should be kept or replaced. The intention should always be to minimise the extent of intervention into historic fabric.
  • To take opportunities for archaeological investigation and recording as they arise, for example prior to repair or development schemes, and to ensure the record is sufficiently comprehensive to seek to answer questions and tackle themes posed, for example, within the WHS Research Framework or identified as ‘gaps in knowledge’ in heritage reports such as the CMPs. There is an opportunity to work alongside the Conservation Officers and Historic England in developing a manual for appropriate levels of recording in certain commonly encountered scenarios.
  • Given the archaeological potential and sensitivity across the WHS, to ensure that any ground disturbance undertaken is in agreement with the County or Cathedral Archaeologist as relevant and a watching brief undertaken.
  • To promote Heritage Partnership Agreements.
  • To deposit all new research and recording information relevant to standing and below ground archaeology and historical reviews at the Historic Environment Record (HER).

Figure 7.14:  Poster Advertising the Durham WHS Architecture and Conservation Lecture Series

Figure 7.15:  South West Prospect of Durham (Samuel & Nathaniel Buck, 1745) © Durham City Library

7.8 Education and Understanding

There is increasing understanding of the historic development of the WHS, its current character and significance, and individual components due to the volume of exhibitions within the Cathedral and Palace Green Library, lectures given at public archaeology days, published works and unpublished grey literature. However, gaps and blind spots in understanding remain. This is due, in part, to the accrual of a piecemeal and complicated archive of information which is dispersed across multiple repositories, including the spendement, No.5 The College, Palace Green Library, the National Archives, the National Monuments Record, the County Record Office and the HER Office. Funding constraints also prohibit detailed studies and analysis on a building-by-building basis. Therefore the understanding of the minutiae of the WHS fabric is still to be achieved


  • To develop where appropriate in collaboration with other relevant bodies, further education initiatives to inform building owners and managers. This could include a public lecture series, the preparation of a ‘good practice’ guidance leaflet and signposting to practical information on the WHS and Historic England websites

7.9 Public Realm/Landscapes

7.9.1 Green Landscapes

The gardens of the Master’s House, Fellows’ Garden and the grass sward on Palace Green, Monk’s Garden, Cloister Garth, the College and North Churchyard are well maintained. With the exception of Palace Green, many of these are relatively tranquil green oases. The overgrown land below the north terrace is, however, unmanaged. This area was formerly designed garden land, but has not been modelled or improved for many years. The Research Framework can provide rewarding documentary evidence in support of the conservation and restoration of these historic Green Landscapes.

7.9.2 Trees and Vegetation

Trees and greenery provide an important contribution to the urban landscape of the WHS. However, those planted during the 19th and early 20th centuries within the Fellows’ Garden and between Palace Green and the Castle have become increasingly unmanaged and overgrown, and arguably restrict key views. They also provide an unwanted volume of leaf-fall which can interfere with drainage.

The riverbanks provide an expansive area of woodland where tree and vegetation management is variable. The care and definition of the Cathedral’s riverbanks has benefited from a recent HLF grant. Conversely, the riverbanks under the ownership of St John’s and St Chad’s Colleges (which were historically gardens and managed earthworks) are subject to a very low level of management, resulting in overgrown vegetation, invasive tree growth and associated episodes of anti-social behaviour.. These areas also form part of the area for review as part of an expanded WHS.

Figure 7.16:  Durham Riverbanks in Autumn (Michael Sadgrove)

7.9.3 Hard Landscaping

The resurfacing of Dun Cow Lane (also Bow Lane) and the refurbishment / retention of the Owengate cobbles has significantly improved the principal approaches to Palace Green. However, the paving and surfaces around Palace Green require a more consistent approach and the extensive areas of unsympathetic asphalt should be removed. There should be a strong presumption against the replacement of setts with asphalt surfacing even as a temporary measure as these actions can often become a long-term issue. Along North and South Bailey, a holistic, consistent approach is needed from landowners and WHS partners to prevent the removal of materials such as setts and Caithness paving slabs which make a significant contribution to the character of the WHS. A programme of pothole repair and broken paving maintenance needs to be maintained. Consideration must also be given to improving access for people with mobility challenges to and around the WHS, in particular the access onto Palace Green via Dun Cow Lane and the impact of road surfacing at the bottom of Owengate.

7.9.4 Lighting

Durham City benefits from a ‘Strategy for Lighting and Darkness’ commissioned from Spiers & Major in 2007. The effect of the new lighting schemes at the Castle and Cathedral (2012) add a new dimension to the visitor experience and perception of the WHS both from a distance and as one moves around the WHS and it is important that a rigorous regime of maintenance ensures that this highly effective lighting scheme is in full working order. Palace Green has been deliberately kept dark and is only lit via four standard lamps which are intended for way-finding along the footpaths only. This contributes to the atmospheric ‘darkness’ at the Green in the evenings. Appropriateness of lighting is an issue inside many of the buildings, where modern strip lighting prevails and hinders the appreciation of the value and interest of the historic décor of the spaces. New lighting schemes should seek to reveal and enhance the WHS site at night, but without detriment to ecology, including bat habitats.

As an example of a lighting event, the WHS is also creatively lit as a key part of the family-friendly biennial ‘Durham Lumiere’ festival. This involves the installation of numerous temporary light exhibits across the site, and does of necessity include the mounting of substantial rigs and installations within close proximity to designated buildings and riverbank locations. However, careful planning ensures that there is minimal impact on the WHS while at the same time encouraging up to 150,000 visitors to engage with the Site who might otherwise never have ventured on to the Peninsula.

Figure 7.17:  Palace Green and Cathedral new Lighting Scheme


  • To develop partnership working to create a strategy for more proactive tree management along the riverbanks and upon the Peninsula in order to reduce the effect of excessive growth. Proactively managing tree growth will ensure the retention/reclamation of key views, and increase in biodiversity on the ground cover. This has been undertaken for the riverbanks in the ownership of the Cathedral and provides a model for the University Colleges and private owners who are responsible for the remainder.
  • Revive and support fundraising bids for riverbanks management programmes
  • To aim to reduce unsightly visual intrusions into the landscape and street furniture clutter (e.g. the bright red waste bins should be replaces by ones of a more neutral and sympathetic colour.
  • To unify the public realm within the WHS with the reinstatement of traditional surfaces.
  • To have regard to the needs of people with restricted mobility when designing external spaces.
  • To replace modern inappropriate materials e.g. cement-based pebbledash render, wherever possible and reinstate with  products informed by existing evidence on the site.
  • To avoid the use of asphalt in patching broken paving or replacing setts.
  • To develop a materials palette to inform decisions by landowners and managing agents.
  • To ensure quick repairs to lighting, paving and landscaping when damage occurs or equipment fails
  • To promote the development of the skills needed to conserve the historic heritage.
  • Within buildings, to implement a programme of gradually replacing inappropriate modern lighting in highly significant spaces with sympathetic conservation lighting that respects and reveals the character of the significant interior spaces of the site.
  • To identify sympathetic lighting types and provide estates and buildings staff with information about these.

Figure 7.18:  Cathedral Woodlands and Riverbanks Restoration Project

7.10 Conservation Philosophy

Day-to-day decisions regarding the repair and conservation of the fabric of the WHS will ultimately rely on the unique challenges and circumstances of each situation, and responses should be based on a localised understanding of the building(s) in question, their significance and the specific condition issues at hand. However, at the same time, it is essential that an overarching conservation philosophy exists for the WHS in order to develop consistency of care, expectation and aspiration across the multiple ownerships during programmes of repair.

This need for an overarching conservation philosophy has been identified within the Conservation Management Framework exercises for the Cathedral, Castle Walls and Palace Green. Inconsistency of approach, workmanship and/or materials in the past detracts from the architectural, historical and aesthetic significance of the WHS. Going forward, this can begin to be addressed and mitigated through the implementation (and cyclical review) of the agreed philosophy set out in section 7.11 below. This will ensure that the essential integrity and character of the WHS is not eroded or damaged during the repair process, but instead protected and revealed. Vitally, this philosophy will also help to facilitate, nurture and expand traditional craft practice on the peninsula as a Centre of Excellence in the North East.


  • To adopt and implement the agreed Conservation Philosophy for the WHS as a starting point for appropriate conservation and care.

7.11 Practical Guidance, Repairs, Maintenance and Alterations

Working with heritage assets brings a unique set of issues to the development process, such as understanding the special conservation, planning, funding and construction matters associated with them. The regeneration process also requires specialist knowledge. A greater understanding of the special issues associated with both heritage assets and regeneration can only enhance the success rate of heritage-led regeneration.

7.11.1 Materials

In many locations, modern materials have been specified which are either inappropriate aesthetically or compromise the performance of the buildings. For example, several buildings have been coated in 20th century concrete-based rough-cast render, such as the rear of Cosin’s Almshouses, the rear of Nos. 5-6 Owengate and the side of the Pemberton Lecture Rooms. Rendered areas may conceal interesting architectural evidence, and should be inspected and recorded by an archaeologist in the event of renewal in appropriate materials. Elsewhere, historic windows have been replaced with unsympathetically designed double-glazed units, some chimneys and chimneys pots removed. Other common problems are inappropriate materials used for repairs that become permanent, pot holes in the road, pavements in poor condition that become dangerous, badly finished repairs, and dangerous access for disabled people over uneven surfaces. Advice on an appropriate palette of materials for use in the WHS should form part of the education materials readily available for landowners and managers.

7.11.2 Understanding Buildings

In order to meet the criteria to obtain consent and approval, it is necessary to understand the building so that its significance and integrity are not negatively harmed in the process of change. The level of investigation and recording will depend on the nature of proposed intervention and the statutory status of the asset. Guidance on levels of appropriate recording and reporting are set out in Understanding Historic Buildings: A Guide to Good Practice (English Heritage 2006, available to download at http://www.helm.org.uk/).


  • In order to inform and support the development and implementation of best practice at Durham, to produce bespoke Streetscape Manual of ‘WHS Technical Advice Notes’ for the various individual traditional materials on the site as specific practical guidance for the treatment of each element.

7.11.3 Alterations and Approaches to New Development:

The combination of WHS status with the numerous statutory designations across the site (Listed Buildings, Scheduled Monuments and Conservation Area) provides a high level of control over alteration and new development in the WHS, but where this does occur it has the potential to have a significant impact on the character of the WHS. Nevertheless, there is still scope for sensitive change that is thoughtfully informed by, and does not detract from, the OUV of the site and its deeper heritage values. The identification of key factors in establishing the character and significance of the WHS is a valuable way of understanding the impact of new work and improving site-wide quality. Such description would not be detailed in a way that would stifle creativity but would assist with understanding and steering the developer’s expectations for the site and ensure the OUV of the WHS is enhanced, rather than harmed. This could be supported by consultation directly or through the key agencies. Topics to be considered include understanding the significance of massing, building heights, materials, landscaping/hardscaping and of public realm. As a general principle, the alteration or replacement of more recent unsympathetically designed buildings or features could be re

garded favourably, providing the replacement improves significantly on what was previously there and fits well in the townscape of the WHS. Modern architecture may be appropriate, but must be of a high quality and make a positive contribution to the WHS that future generations will appreciate as a good example of twenty-first century architecture.


  • Ensure that key aspects of significance are identified and used to understand the impact of proposals and provide a basis for development to enhance the WHS and support its OUV;
  • Develop and encourage the use of a conservation framework and design and access statements for alterations and new developments in the WHS

Figure 7.19:  Exterior view of the Pace Library Building - river facade. The building is well designed to vanish behind the older library buildings on Palace Green.

7.12 Understanding and Conserving the WHS and its Setting

Although WHS status does not bring additional planning protection in its own right, it does allow for more focused recognition of the impact of developments on and within sight of the WHS. Increasing understanding of the essential characteristics of the WHS and its setting enables them to be taken into account with greater consistency when developments which might affect that character are assessed. Clarity about the character of the WHS also assists with the encouragement of positive conservation and increased sustainability where there is essential change. A further exploration of key characteristics that support the WHS is in Appendix 1, SETTING, BOUNDARIES

English Heritage’s 2013 publication Heritage Works: The use of historic buildings in regeneration provides a practical step by step guide on how to bring forward a heritage led regeneration project, identifying common pitfalls and ways of overcoming or avoiding them. The template for heritage-led regeneration (overleaf) provides a valuable tool for the WHS to support heritage-led regeneration projects on the site and its setting.