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What is a heritage survey?

A heritage survey, also known as a historic survey, is a systematic process of identifying, documenting, and assessing the historical, cultural, architectural, and archaeological significance of places, structures, objects, or landscapes. These surveys are typically conducted to:

Preserve Cultural and Historical Resources:

Heritage surveys aim to identify and protect elements of a community's cultural and historical heritage. This includes historic buildings, landmarks, archaeological sites, artifacts, and natural landscapes with cultural significance.

Inform Planning and Development:

Local governments, preservation organisations, and planners often use heritage surveys to inform land-use planning and development decisions. By identifying and documenting significant heritage resources, they can make informed choices about how to accommodate new development while preserving the past. Typically these are Heritage Statements or Statements of Significance.

Support Heritage Conservation:

Heritage surveys play a crucial role in heritage conservation efforts. They provide the data needed to prioritize and target resources for the preservation, restoration, or adaptive reuse of historically and culturally important sites and structures. Quite often a legal requirement for certain types of development or alterations to heritage sites. This ensures that developers and property owners consider the impact of their actions on heritage resources. The Local Planning Authority may approve planning permission with a Condition to complete a Historic Building Record, depending on the significance of the site this will vary from Level 1 - 4, 4 being the most in depth, a Level 2 is the most common.

Raise Awareness and Educate:

Heritage surveys often contribute to public awareness and education about a community's history and cultural identity. By documenting and sharing information about heritage resources, communities can celebrate their heritage and promote a sense of identity and pride. This can be in the form of Local listing and conservation areas, this is part of the methodology for the Local Planning Authority outlined with the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.


The process of conducting a heritage survey typically involves the following


1. Research and Background Study: Gathering historical documents, maps, photographs, and other relevant information to understand the area's history and potential heritage resources.

2. Field Survey: Visiting the study area to physically inspect and document the heritage resources. This may involve taking photographs, making sketches, and recording detailed descriptions.

3. Documentation: Compiling detailed reports and records about the identified heritage resources. This includes historical information, architectural details, significance assessments, and recommendations for preservation or conservation.

4. Assessment of Significance: Evaluating the historical, cultural, architectural, and archaeological significance of each resource. This often involves applying established criteria or guidelines.

5. Recommendations: Based on the assessment, the survey report may include recommendations for preservation, restoration, adaptive reuse, or other measures to protect and manage the heritage resources.


Heritage surveys are essential tools for safeguarding a community's cultural and historical heritage and ensuring that future generations can appreciate and learn from the past. They help strike a balance between development and heritage preservation, fostering a sense of continuity and identity.

AMS SURVEYS, can support you throughout the process of ownership. We conduct pre-purchase surveys, condition and repair surveys, Architectural Design and Planning services, and Project Management for Heritage clients across the North of England. To arrange a free no obligation consultation Contact us.

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