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When Loss is More: From Managed Decline to Adaptive Release

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  • Caitlin DeSilvey
  • Harald Fredheim
  • Hannah Fluck
  • Rosemary S. Hails
  • Rodney Harrison
  • Ingrid Samuel
  • Amber Blundell


Publication details

JournalThe Historic Environment: Policy & Practice
DatePublished - 9 Sep 2021
Issue number3-4
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)418-433
Original languageEnglish


Within the heritage sector there is widespread recognition that the accelerating effects of climate and other changes will necessitate reconsideration of the care of at-risk places and properties. Heritage organisations and agencies are developing new ways to identify and measure future threats, and to prioritise resources accordingly. For some designated assets, it is becoming clear, it may be necessary to manage processes of decline and transformation. Drawing on insights gathered from conversations with natural and historic environment practitioners and regulators, this paper highlights current practice and policy around managed decline, with a focus on the English context. In seeking to address some of the limitations of current approaches, this paper introduces a new conceptual framework: adaptive release. Adaptive release, as presented here, reflects a decision to accommodate the dynamic transformation of a heritage asset and its associated values and significance, with reference to wider landscape settings. The focus is on iterative management over extended timeframes, involving some relinquishment of control and a commitment to ongoing monitoring and interpretation. The concept of adaptive release is presented provisionally, rather than prescriptively, to expand the range of options available to natural and historic environment professionals in responding to inevitable change.

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