View of office space in a historic building.
Eagle Works, Sheffield, South Yorkshire. © Historic England (DP234100)
Eagle Works, Sheffield, South Yorkshire. © Historic England (DP234100)

Heritage and the Economy

The historic environment has a close connection to economic activity. A great many of our jobs and enterprises are dependent on, attracted to or based in historic buildings and spaces.

The historic environment has a close connection to economic activity. A great many of our jobs and enterprises are dependent on, attracted to or based in historic buildings and spaces.

Heritage and Economy 2020, continues to build on past editions. It begins by presenting the economic profile of the heritage sector (chapter 1) and moves on to present short summaries of research on the economic value of heritage. The research shows that heritage is inherently sustainable and is an integral part of a low carbon economy (chapter 4); heritage assets in productive use contribute to regeneration and the competitive advantage of places (chapter 5); heritage can be a catalyst for inclusive growth and is an important part of our wellbeing economy (chapter 6).  In addition, this year’s publication presents new evidence about the economic impact of COVID-19 on the heritage sector (chapter 3).

Key findings include:

  • In 2019, pre COVID-19 pandemic, the heritage sector provided over 206,000 jobs directly and supported a further 357,000 jobs through indirect and induced mechanisms in multiple sectors including the construction, tourism, public, creative industries and social services sectors.
  • Heritage employment growth outstripped the rest of the UK economy, growing almost twice as fast between 2011 to 2019.
  • However, like many sectors the heritage sector has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions to reduce the spread of the virus.
  • The conservation, use, and re-use of our precious heritage assets exemplify the fundamental principles of the circular economy.
  • The cost of reducing pollution as measured by the marginal abatement cost (MAC) is generally lower for retrofitted historic buildings, than for an equivalent new building.
  • It has been estimated that for every €1 million invested in energy renovation of buildings, an average of 18 jobs are created in the EU (Wade, 2020).
  • Historic assets form a significant part of our retail environment and our high streets with up to 48% of all national retail stock built before 1919. Local distinctiveness can be key to high street renewal.

Respect for heritage is intimately linked to local distinctiveness

Building Better Building Beautiful Commission (2020)
  • Heritage has an important role to play in our wellbeing economy. Heritage is an essential part of the social fabric of our society.
  • Heritage has an important role to play in building back more inclusive local economies, communities and identities.

Heritage Economic Estimate Indicators

The Heritage Economic Estimate Indicators is an Excel spread sheet that provides detailed estimates of the national and regional economic impact of the heritage sector.

For a detailed breakdown of the estimates:

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