Graduating in 2013, Lizzie Heywood studied MSc Building Conservation and Regeneration at UCLan and now works as a Conservation Advisor at Port Sunlight Village Trust.
After completing her degree in history, Lizzie wanted to pursue a career that involved historic research in some capacity. Her father, who works as a Conservation Officer for a local authority, influenced her when she chose building conservation and regeneration. “My dad discussed a council led project with me which would see the restoration of a grade II* listed building, listed on English Heritage’s ‘Buildings at Risk’ register. Being able to work on projects like this myself intrigued me; I knew that conservation was a very competitive industry and that I would need extra qualifications if I wanted to pursue a career in heritage.”
Lizzie explains what made her choose the course at UCLan. “I’d done my research and found that the building conservation and regeneration course at UCLan would give me a wide breadth of knowledge surrounding best practise, conservation philosophy and legislation.”
Talking about her time at UCLan, Lizzie explains that she was nervous about having limited prior technical experience before starting. However, the MSc Building Conservation and Regeneration course quickly introduces you to architectural terms and guidance on articles and books that can broaden your knowledge in the area.
“The staff were so friendly and approachable, no question was a silly one and they were happy to help. I’d definitely recommend the course to anyone interested in studying building conservation and/or regeneration.”
“In decision making you need to be able to quote from planning policy and legislation comfortably. The course at UCLan certainly prepared me for this with seminars focusing on the NPPF, the Burra Charter, the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and Historic England’s ‘Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance’.”
After graduation, Lizzie got a part-time job that would run alongside some valuable work experience. Volunteering for the Heritage Team at Blackpool Council and working closely alongside the Conservation Officer and Built Heritage and Conservation Manager, she was involved in discussing planning applications which affected conservation areas and listed buildings. “I also researched key architects, such as Frank Matcham, who influenced the designs for prominent buildings in Blackpool and the legacy they left behind.”
After several months volunteering with Blackpool Council, Lizzie interviewed for a conservation trainee position within Stockport Council on a scheme that was a ‘Heritage Skills for the Future’ programme funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and endeavoured to prepare graduates for a career in the heritage sector. Lizzie was successful in her application and was placed within the Planning Department, working alongside the Conservation Team. “I gained invaluable experience here in the decision making process for all planning applications affecting heritage assets including listed buildings, conservation areas and scheduled monuments. I was also introduced to the Townscape Heritage Initiative programme and worked within a team of three to put a Stage One bid together. The contract was for 12 months but after eight months I applied for the position at Port Sunlight and was successful.”
In her current role as a Conservation Advisor, Lizzie is an advocate for the built heritage of Port Sunlight. “I maintain an advisory service for owners of properties within Port Sunlight Conservation Area, including assistance on listed building consent and/or planning applications, delivering an educational programme for owners, contractors and advisors, and in some cases negotiating with owners over corrective action, monitoring any agreed targets with them. I liaise frequently with Wirral Council and Historic England and share any information available about the condition of buildings (public and residential) within the village. I now also sit on the committee for the Conservation Areas Wirral (CAW) group and attend MCOG (Merseyside Conservation Officers’ Group) meetings.”
Now working for them, Lizzie reminisces about her time at UCLan and the course visit to Port Sunlight. “It was part of our ‘History of Towns and Cities’ module; I remember vividly taking a walking tour of the village and learning about the Garden City Movement, alongside Lever’s vision for the village. It was really quite revolutionary for its time, especially considering the properties were designed as factory workers’ housing.”
Lizzie had a lot of work experience under her belt before securing her current role. It is no surprise that she advises anyone looking to do something similar to her to get involved in as many work experience opportunities as possible. “The best way to retain everything you’ve learnt is to then implement it in the workplace. Don’t be afraid to volunteer, it is the best way to use your new skills and network with professionals who work in your chosen sector. Also, do not be afraid of rejection, it happens to us all and does not reflect badly on you. Keep trying and eventually you will succeed! Lastly, become a member of the IHBC- there’s discounts for student memberships and their conferences are a great way to bridge skills gaps and meet like-minded people within the conservation field.”
During her time at Port Sunlight Village Trust, Lizzie and her team have won a Historic England ‘Heritage Angels’ Award in the ‘Best Research Project’ category in partnership with Wirral Council in October 2016. “This was for our joint efforts in creating and implementing a Local Listed Building Consent Order (LLBCO) within Port Sunlight. It is one of the first of its kind and gives residents in the Port Sunlight Conservation Area ‘blanket’ consent to make certain alterations to the rear of their properties which would usually require Listed Building Consent.”