Building conservation students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) had the opportunity to explore real-life industry issues at a practical workshop with a Lancashire heritage initiative.
Site visits are a regular feature of UCLan’s MSc Building Conservation and Regeneration course. They take place every other week and the latest visit took students to Bacup for a workshop, which was run in partnership with Bacup Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI).
Organised by THI project officer and current MSc student Gareth Fort, the workshop allowed students to find out more about the THI and included a walking tour of Bacup, culminating with an inspection of the vacant Grade II listed St John the Evangelist Church. Students worked in groups to assess the heritage values of the church and to analyse the re-use potential for the building. They explored the economic and social issues with the aim of finding a sustainable use for the building, which would conserve its heritage.
Commenting on the site visit, Course Leader Chris O’Flaherty said: “Workshops such as this, where students engage with real life projects, are an essential feature of the MSc course. Bacup provides a fabulous case study, in that it possesses some quite extraordinary historic buildings which have become obsolete due to their location, not their physical qualities.
“The visit to Bacup provided a visual sense of the place, a feel of the living environment and an awareness of the some of the underlying issues and problems, many of which would not have been apparent if a desktop approach had been taken."
“The THI offers an opportunity to kick-start the regeneration of the town centre, but as the students found in their workshop deliberations, finding new and sustainable uses for buildings is no easy task.”
The THI is a Heritage Lottery funded regeneration scheme. After a successful bid, Bacup received a grant of £2 million, which is being invested in the renovation of historic building to bring them back into appropriate and sustainable use. This workshop provided students with experience of how such projects work and allowed them to consider how they would make use of the grant.
MSc student Jane Potts felt this experience was invaluable. She said: “The visit to Bacup provided a visual sense of the place, a feel of the living environment and an awareness of the some of the underlying issues and problems, many of which would not have been apparent if a desktop approach had been taken.
“It allowed a greater understanding of the physical architecture and the socio-economic issues facing Bacup, this in turn had an impact on evaluating the possibilities for the re-use of the church building.”
Gareth added: “The students came up with some really innovative and well- thought through proposals for the redundant church. It also gave them insight into some of the projects and grant funding streams that practitioners are involved in.”