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About the project

The Project

The historic towns of Cornwall and Scilly have a rich historical and archaeological legacy giving each its own distinctiveness and character. Regeneration initiatives bring major benefits to these towns. The Cornwall and Scilly Urban Survey (CSUS) supports this process of change, seeking to ensure that in each case regeneration is based on a thorough understanding of the historic environment and builds upon the existing distinctive character of the place. 

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The project investigated 19 towns and created for each an information base and character assessment to provide a framework for sustainable action within these historic settlements. These towns were identified in consultation with planning, conservation and economic regeneration officers as those which were likely to be the focus for regeneration.

CSUS was a pioneering intiative aimed at cutting across the boundary that traditionally divides conservation and economic development. Nationally, it is the first such project carrying out a characterisation-based assessment of the historic urban environment specifically to inform and support a regional economic regeneration programme. Future regeneration initiatives in other historic settlements, both in Cornwall and Scilly, and further afield, will benefit from the approach developed by this project.

The history and historic development of each town were investigated and mapped for the whole of the area defined for the settlement by the then current district Local Plans. However, the detailed characterisation and analysis of urban topography which together form the primary elements of the study are closely focused on the historic urban extent of the settlement. Outlying rural settlements which have been incorporated into the modern urban area since 1907 (Second Edition Ordnance Survey mapping's date of publication) are intentionally excluded from this assessment.

In addition to assessing the broad elements of settlement character which define the settlement as a whole, the CSUS investigation identified distinct character areas within each town's historic urban extent. These character areas are differentiated from each other by their varied historic origins, functions and resultant urban topography, by the processes of change which have affected each susequently and the extent to which these elements and processes are evident in the current townscape. In simple terms, each character area may be said to have its own individual 'biography' which has determined its present character.

The character areas offer a means of understanding the past and the present. In turn, that understanding provides the basis for a positive approach to planning future change which will maintain and reinforce the historic character and individuality of each area - sustainable local distinctiveness.

Characterising the historic environment of each settlement will produce a valuable dataset on the historic fabric, archaeological potential and townscape character of the historic town. This information can be used as a conventional conservation and planning tool to define constraints, as a yardstick against which to measure new development and policy proposals and as a basis of well founded conservation management, restoration and enhancement schemes and policies.

Characterisation also reveals the essential dynamic factors underpinning each settlement's character. Regeneration planning, which is informed and inspired by these elements can take a much more sure-footed and proactive approach to creating beneficial change, both reinforcing and enhancing existing character and ensuring that new developments are better integrated into the existing urban framework, more focused and ultimately more successful.

Read more about the reports and the towns.