Promoting Cultural Heritage As A Key Driver For Local Climate Action: programme insight

On this page you’ll find all the most up to date information on the speakers and presentations of our upcoming virtual conference: Promoting Cultural Heritage As A Key Driver For Local Climate Action.

Speakers’ bios and presentation abstracts

(list in progress – please come back for more updates)

Clara Arokiasamy is the President of ICOMOS-UK and is the Chair of ICOMOS-UK’S Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee which she founded in 2012 and a member of the Rights-Based Approaches Working Group at ICOMOS International. Her involvement, as a senior manager and non-executive member in the planning and delivery of arts and heritage services in the UK spans local government, community sector, and Non-Government Departments, over a period of 25 years. She was Deputy Director Operations at UK’s Heritage Lottery Fund, a member of the Culture Committee at the UK National Commission for UNESCO, Vice President of the International Committee for Intangible Cultural Heritage at ICOMOS International and a member of the Strategic Review Committee at ICOM International. Clara also chaired the London Mayor’s Heritage and Diversity Task Force and the Open University’s research board on Cultural Rights and Kenya’s New Constitution. She worked with the EU Commission on EU-funded interventions on cultural heritage. 

Laura Sandys CBE, Co-Chair, IPPR Environmental Justice Commission

Laura Sandys is chair of the Government’s Energy Digitalisation Taskforce driving change in energy and Chair of the Northern Ireland Expert Panel on Energy Transition

She is founder of the Food Foundation working with Marcus Rashford’s campaign on food insecurity, co-founder of POWERful Women and former Deputy Chair of the Food Standards Agency.

She was previously a Member of Parliament for South Thanet, and described by The Times as ‘one of the sanest of all MPs’ and as ‘lateral-minded, original and free-thinking’

Dr James Ritson, UCEM Programme leader  Building Surveying

BA(Hons). Grad. Dip. Arch. MA. PhD. FRGS. UCEM Programme leader Building Surveying, Vice-President ICOMOS ISCES

Dr James Ritson is an architecturally trained building conservator specialising in sustainability and recording the existing built environment. He is currently the programme leader for both BSc(Hons) & MSc Building Surveying at University College of Estate Management. James is an Expert member of two ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites)(UN advisory group on World Heritage) Scientific committees: The UK National Scientific Committee on Digital Heritage and is the Vice -President of the International Scientific Committee on Energy and Sustainability. James was made a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society in 2010 for his work on the sustainability of the built environment. He has published widely on sustainability, health and conservation issues, and his main research interests are sustainability of the existing built environment and the recording of existing buildings.

Keynote Address 2 – The Problem with Net Zero: abstract

With the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions due to the climate crisis. The talk will question the whether trying to make historic building ‘zero carbon’ is the most sustainable approach. Should there be a different approach? The talk will propose that the trying to retrofit historic building to zero carbon is neither effective in tackling  climate change or the most sustainable approach. The talk will use the example of the historic UK Housing stock to question whether this level of investment would be better spent elsewhere in the fight against climate change.

Ian Harvey, Exec Director of Civic Voice

Civil Society – Mobilising Communities: abstract

We know that Civic Societies are some of the most passionate advocates for local action in protecting built and natural heritage but what makes them unique is that unlike many other sector, the civic movement embraces everything from dense urban, to deeply rural communities and everything in between.  It is also one of the most developed national networks of volunteers working to protect the historical and social amenity of local areas.  What’s the Civic Movement currently doing to highlight the need for climate action and how do you see the potential impact of this as a catalyst for local communities in terms of information and activities? Are there examples of work being done by local civic societies? Are there plans to promote greater action?

Dr Jacqui Cotton, Flood and Coastal Risk Engagement Manager, Environment Agency

Jacqui Cotton is the national Flood and Coastal Change Engagement Manager at the Environment Agency (EA). Jacqui and her team work to enable partners involved in flood management, and communities at flood risk, to work together and participate in flood management decisions and responses. Jacqui has worked at the EA for over ten years and has previously worked in research and development, and operational flood forecasting. She specialises in understanding how to draw risk communication, behavioural insights and social/health impacts of flooding evidence into flood management. Prior to joining the EA, Jacqui worked in academia, researching environmental change in chalk rivers. She holds a PhD in floodplain geomorphology and palaeoecology.

Engaging with communities on climate resilience: abstract

Sea levels have risen by 16cm around the UK since 1900. Future climate change will bring wetter winters and drier summers, but with more intense summer rainfall events. The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment states that this extreme weather will affect “culturally-valued structures, their immediate surroundings, and archaeology”.

The Environment Agency (EA) is responsible for managing the risk of flooding from rivers and the sea in England. Achieving climate resilience and adapting to mitigate future climate impacts is at the heart of the EA’s strategic ambitions, but this will not be easy to achieve. Recent research to explore how communities and risk management authorities can better work together to plan and adapt to climate change identified five challenges. ‘Place attachment, culture and identity’ is one of these. People have diverse emotional connections to places (including heritage and landscape) which should provide the context for discussions about how to manage future risks to those places.

This research tells us that authorities need to use engagement methods that are more sensitive to the meanings and emotions associated with a particular place. This starts by taking a collaborative place-based approach to climate resilience. This talk will discuss how authorities need to collaborate with communities to draw out important place-based issues when making decisions on managing future risks.

Hannah Fluck, Head of Environment Strategy, Historic England

Hard choices: Climate Challenges to Heritage: abstract

Hard Choices – we know that irrespective of whether we meet our net zero targets that there will be changes to our physical environment as a result of climate change.  We also know that these changes will require decisions to be made about our cultural heritage, particularly about how we look at adaptation, protection and potentially, loss.  Why will we need to make these decisions and how might they be made?  How can agencies like Historic England meaningfully engage with communities and bring them into the heart of not only climate action, but engaging with policy decisions that will affect everyone?

Dr Toby Driver, Senior Aerial Investigator, CHERISH Project  

CHERISH – Cross Border Working: abstract

The CHERISH project encompasses cultural and natural heritage.  Ian’s presentation will talk about the successful way in which Cherish has worked in bringing together cross border agencies and communities to deliver information and climate action across a number of areas spanning natural and cultural heritage on the Irish sea coastline.  We’ll see examples of where strands of this work has led to engagement between agencies and local communities and shared knowledge and understanding of the challenges faced by heritage as a result of coastal climate change. 

Noha Nasser, Director, MELA Social Enterprise

Noha Nasser is Founding Director of MELA Social Enterprise. She is a passionate architect, urban designer, academic and social entrepreneur who believes that community-based solutions to urban design and heritage can build a strong identity of place and bring people together. She is the Founding Director of MELA. Over her career Noha has written a range of courses to meet the needs of professionals and communities. She has been actively involved in finding creative ways to engage with cultural diversity in areas of urban change where community cohesion makes social, cultural and economic sense. Noha is a Council of Europe Intercultural Cities Expert in Public Space. She has held several academic Director posts and held two international Post-doctoral Fellowships. She co-edits the Journal, Urban Design International. Noha is the author of the award-winning book ‘Bridging Cultures: the guide to social innovation in cosmopolitan cities’ and editor of the recent book ‘Connections: 12 approaches to relationship-based placemaking’ – a coproduction with MELAssociates. She became a Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) in 2017. Noha was Co-Chair of the Association of Collaborative Design CIC with a mission to mainstream and champion co-design in the built environment and is a Trustee of the charity Caravanserai, a pioneering model of regeneration and social cohesion through meanwhile use. Noha loves long distance walking in nature.

URBAN Case Study – Taking Account of Diverse Communities in Urban Settingsabstract:

In the drive to address climate emergency, responsibility has been placed primarily on governments and corporations to influence change. However, this talk demonstrates how urban projects that co-design with local communities to adapt homes and cultural spaces are in fact more impactful in mitigating climate change. The talk argues that appropriate methods of collaborative community engagement are fundamental for an accumulative change of behaviours and attitudes. Many would say local communities need educating in order to meet this change, yet this talk showcases how co-designing with the Pakistani community to adapt Victorian houses in an inner-city Birmingham neighbourhood led to an equal sharing of knowledge; on the one hand from architects with their technical know-how; and on the other, from the local Pakistani community whose cultural values shaped optimum, manageable change. A co-design process can work at many urban scales for a positive and impactful outcome, as in the case of the We Are Balsall Heath Street Festival, in which the diverse community identified their own mitigation strategies and prototyping to adapt their High Street.

Viv Lewis, Administrator, Federation of Cumbria Commoners

Viv Lewis is the administrator of the Federation of Cumbria Commoners, a hill farmer owned organisation dedicated to safeguarding the rights, livelihoods and future of commoners (hill farmers who have rights to graze common land). She is also the Secretary of the Crossfell Commoners’ Association covering over 4,000 hectares of common land including the highest peak in the Pennines. All the land is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has numerous other landscape and nature conservation designations.  There are 40 members and they have first-hand experience of the highs and lows of collective delivery of landscape-scale conservation schemes. Viv also run a small sheep farm based on regenerative agriculture principles and sell meat direct to the public.  

RURAL Case Study – Climate Friendly Upland Farming – abstract:

Up to now Natural England had has a single focus on biodiversity loss in uplands. To a large extent this has obscured the potential for farmers to help with mitigating climate change through the way they use the land and limit their carbon emissions. Viv will look at two embryonic farmer-led initiatives the Lake District where farmers are working out what climate friendly farming means to them. 

Sally Ashby, Sussex Kelp Lead for the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Having graduated in Zoology from Bristol University, Sally spent twelve years working in the television industry making documentaries and factual programmes for Channel 4. She then returned to her original passion for nature conservation and completed an MSc in Conservation at UCL focusing on coastal ecosystem services and the Cuckmere Estuary. The Sussex Kelp Restoration Project is an ambitious and hope-filled project that aims to heal the Sussex marine environment, build climate change resilience and restore healthy productive seas for future generations.

MARINE Case Study – Sussex Kelp Restoration Project | Sussex Wildlife Trust: abstract

In the 1980s there was an extensive kelp forest covering 17,000ha of Sussex coast. Decades of negative human impacts, such as trawling, means only 4% of this habitat remains intact. With trawling now excluded from 30,000ha of the nearshore seabed, the Sussex Kelp Restoration Project aims to restore the kelp forests to support a thriving and sustainable marine ecosystem.

The Sussex seabed includes habitats of bedrock, boulders and cobbles which occur in the shallow subtidal zone and support crucial seaweed communities. These habitats are particularly prevalent in the inshore area and provide a high level of ecosystem services. The loss of over 95% of kelp from the Sussex coast represents an enormous loss of critical habitat. The SxIFCA Nearshore Trawling Byelaw (March 2021) gives an unprecedented opportunity to allow the seabed to recover from years of destructive trawling.

The Sussex Kelp Restoration Project is a partnership made up of the following organisations; Adur & Worthing Council, Big Wave Productions, Blue Marine Foundation, Marine Conservation Society, Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Sussex University, University of Brighton, University of Portsmouth & Zoological Society London.

Deniz Beck, Deniz Beck Partners

Debate embedded carbon on existing buildings, brings the question of sustainability and zero carbon term of a new built where existing demolished. Deniz Beck‘s professional work as a conservation architect, gave her a sense of practical knowledge in local community projects, government procurement and funding applications; explore natural materials and methods, take a proactive approach to architect’s role making things better for people. Deniz lives and works in the City, and specialised in the regeneration of military heritage sites for a variety of end uses and stakeholders. Recent projects including multiple award winning Hotwalls Studios in Old Portsmouth.

Dr Tarek Teba, Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, University of Portsmouth

Tarek is a senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth and the Chair for ICOMOS UK Digital Technology National Committee. Tarek’s research concerns the conservation of tangible and intangible heritage through creating the balance between contemporary values via community engagement and historic, aesthetic and cultural values. Tarek’s doctoral research, completed in 2016, explored conservation strategies and creative design approaches for Ugarit, a Bronze Age archaeological site in Syria, based upon understanding its archaeology, architecture, social aspects, and the multiple historic layers and the phenomena that created them. A virtual modelling approach was applied to materialise the analysis and simulate the preservation and engagement framework. This analytical tool made it possible to experience and test the interventions and understand the space, interventions and their interface with the original fabric.

Post-PhD, Tarek has explored this interdisciplinary nexus and investigated methodological approaches to preserve the cultural and contemporary social values embedded in heritage assets and cities. He uses community engagement and cultural mapping as an informing tool and a virtual modelling approach as a vehicle to deliver adaptation and development strategies.

COASTAL Case Study   - Battery Project: abstract

A unique island city situated in the southeast of England, Portsmouth is known around the world as the historic maritime centre of the British Empire and the home of the Royal Navy. The legacy of this status can be found today in its dense concentration of hilltop fortifications, sea forts and coastal batteries, some of which date back to the fifteenth century. With a population density greater than that of London and with limited space for expansion, the effective repurposing of these structures is essential to secure their ongoing conservation for the benefit of Portsmouth and its community.

With nearly 40% of UK carbon emission coming from our buildings, considering embodied carbon in them, we must repurpose existing buildings rather than demolish to start fresh. While protecting the environment, there is also strong case to retain a significant number of existing buildings from all eras as they are part of the historic fabric of our built environment. Existing buildings have a social value as well, they tell stories and add a unique sense of identity to the towns and cities. Investing heritage makes economic sense too.

Steve Webb, Director at Webb Yates Engineers

CEng, BEng (Hons), MIStructE

Steve founded Webb Yates Engineers with Andy Yates in 2005. He started his career as a site engineer for the Jubilee Line Extension, gaining first-hand experience of site issues and subterranean construction in London. He went on to work at Whitby Bird and Sinclair Knight Merz and Santiago Calatrava, where he worked on prestigious projects including Wembley Arena and the Turning Torso tower in Sweden, a 58 storey residential tower with a dramatic twisting form achieved with a hybrid steel and concrete frame.

Steve is interested in combining imagination with technical rigour to create artful and inventive structural designs. Since founding the company, he has led a number of prestigious and multi award-winning projects including 15 Clerkenwell Close, The Kantor Centre of Excellence for the Anna Freud Centre and The Hoover Building. Steve has pioneered the practice’s approach to innovation and sustainability. Encouraging the use of non-conventional materials, from cast iron to cork and from inflatables to stone, to design low carbon and environmentally conscious structures.

In 2020 Steve was awarded the Milne Medal, for continuously challenge and redefine what is considered possible in structural design. Steve also regularly lectures at universities and events, has taught at the AA, RCA, and the Bartlett, has written for industry magazines including BD and the RIBAJ, and has judged various awards including for the RIBA and iStructE.

Building for Climate Change – Traditional Materials: abstract

Webb Yates Engineer promotes low carbon building types with a particular focus on materials. Steve will discuss the prospect of a return to stone and timber and the importance of community engagement and education in the way planning policy promotes bad material choices such as brick.

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