Social dilemmas in built-heritage policy: the role of social considerations in decisions of planning inspectors

Nir Mualam, Rachelle Alterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper addresses an underrated aspect of historic preservation policy: the role played by social factors in conflicts over proposals to develop heritage properties. After reviewing existing literature, we develop a theoretical framework and apply it to heritage-related decisions made by planning inspectors in the English planning system. Specifically, the research focuses on planning appeals pertaining to development in conservation areas. We focus on conflicts in Greater London Area and analyse the content of 105 sampled case studies. The findings show that social considerations are present, to some extent, in almost half of the decisions, and that inspectors are often cognizant of the positive and negative social aspects of heritage protection policies. Although heritage policy in England has been acknowledged for its physical and architectural emphasis, in fact, the analysis reveals that, during planning processes, decision-makers also focus attention on the social implications of historic protection. The recognition of the social implications suggests that there are multidimensional perspectives in heritage policy. Indeed, in a large share of conflicts, the inspectors viewed historic preservation in a critical manner, emphasizing the social benefits attributed to demolitions and alterations rather than to preservation. In those cases, planning inspectors stressed better and more affordable housing as public interests which justify why heritage could not be strictly protected. By studying the trajectories of heritage disputes, the paper points out the underlying dimensions of conflicts and concludes that if policymakers are to devise socially inclusive heritage policies, they must first acknowledge their deep and often complex social implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-499
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Housing and the Built Environment
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2018


  • Appeals
  • Conflict
  • Heritage
  • Historic preservation
  • London
  • Planning inspectors
  • Policy

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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