Project summary

What is Innocastle?

Mostly located in rural and remote areas, historic castles, manors and estates (HCME) have the potential to stimulate rural and regional development and innovation. However, this requires a shift of paradigm in governance and support. By developing new policy instruments to unlock these assets, HCME could act as drivers for job creation, better education, improving life quality and reducing social inequalities. The partnership of Innocastle consists of four European regions, each addressing one policy instrument: The National Institute of Heritage in Romania, the Province of Gelderland in the Netherlands, University College Ghent in Belgium and the Provincial Government of Badajoz in Spain.  National Trust from the UK will act as knowledge partner throughout the process and support all partners in remodeling their policies. 

What does that mean in practice?

In phase 1 (June 2018 - November 2020), the partners first compared the situations between each region and learned from each other. Afterwards, four partners developed local action plans to improve targeted policy instruments in each region. The main deliverables of the process are:

1. A joint baseline survey on existing policies and practices. Consult it here

2. Study visits to each of the partner organisations, including a themed seminar and opportunity for peer review. Read about the visits so far in Romania, WalesGelderlandBadajoz and Flanders

3. Fifteen transferable and inspiring good practices have been identified, which could serve other policymakers across Europe - read the Innocastle good practices here

4. The development of four regional action plans together with local actors to improve particular policy instruments, using the data collected. Read here the Local Action Plans proposed for the regions of Badajoz (ES), Flanders (BE), Gelderland (NL) and Romania.

In phase 2 (December 2020 - November 2022), all partners will monitor that the actions proposed in the Local Action Plans are implemented in each region.

Anticipated results

INNOCASTLE seeks to demonstrate the importance of partnership in the sustainable revitalisation and future-proofing of heritage sites. It will alert policymakers to the need for effective funding to enable heritage sites to become self-sufficient.  INNOCASTLE will also highlight our shared European identity. The project will use interregional cooperation to develop new policies for heritage across four partner regions (Gelderland, Extremadura, Flanders and Romania).  Each has a different emphasis, but each will work towards improving the long-term sustainable development of HCME through 4 specific objectives:

  • GOVERNANCE AND PARTNERSHIPS - Innocastle increases collaboration between all levels of governance (local, regional, national, European), between expert fields (heritage, tourism, leisure, landscape, nature) and between sectors (public, private, research and society) in order to help HCME to flourish.
  • FINANCE AND INVESTMENTS - Innocastle generates know how on meaningful, integrated and durable transformation of HCME and sustainable business models. Available resources need to be used more efficiently.
  • PROMOTION AND VISIBILITY - Innocastle develops know-how for local and regional actors to better promote and facilitate HCME through storytelling, cultural routes and product development.
  • DISSEMINATION AND CONTINUATION - Innocastle opens a European-wide discussion about the current and future role of HCME in our society, as an important testimony of our shared European identity.


from 1 Jun 2018
to 30 Nov 2022

Environment and resource efficiency

What policy instruments does the project address?

The Regional Operational Program (ROP) 2014-2020 in Romania will be tackled by the National Institute of Heritage.

Specifically, investment priority 5.1 of the ROP refers to the “preservation, protection, promotion and development of the cultural heritage and identity”, with the objectives to stimulate the local economy by improving the overall condition of heritage sites in Romania. As such, this priority can finance the restoration and touristic promotion of built heritage.

The practice has shown that the ROP guides could be improved in order to better correlate with other related domains and current issues found in the field. Specifically:

  • More detailed inquiries by central and regional authorities are needed to better reflect the realities in the field.
  • Systems to collect and monitor data of public interest regarding heritage need to be put together to offer a complete overview.
  • It is essential that regional programs reflect the complexity of architectural heritage that can only be properly conserved when brought in relation with its context, which often includes natural, movable and immaterial heritage.

Like all other policy instruments that are part of Innocastle, also Priority 5.1 needs to be more correlated to other regional development strategies which include or affect cultural heritage, reflect stakeholders’ needs and to develop comprehensive evaluation criteria for the economic impact on local communities.

Which partners are working on this?
  • National Institute for Heritage

The Decree on Immovable Heritage is an overall decree on monuments and landscapes elaborated by the Flemish Government. The Decree addresses the working instruments to protect and to manage immovable heritage in Flanders, such as:

  • Scientific inventories of important heritage can be set legally;
  • Four protection statutes support the heritage values of sites: instruments to manage heritage, permits to change immaterial heritage, premiums to conserve immaterial heritage and subsidies for an additional structural support. 

The Belgian partner in Innocastle, University College Ghent will further investigate the degree from the perspective of historic castles, manors and estates to find improvement points within Innocastle. Several ideas are already identified:  

  • Historic castles, manors and estates which are listed on the inventory of architectural heritage get specific restrictions which can limit their possibilities for development
  • The complexity and exhaustiveness of the regulations discourage owners to take initiatives to preserve, transform or exploit their monuments.
  • The current subsidies are inadequate for a sustainable preservation.
  • Heritage legislation often coincides with other (sectoral) legislations regarding nature, spatial planning, tourism and others.
  • Heritage policy mainly focuses on identification, assessment and conservation. There is nearly no attention or expertise for the dynamics of the transformation of castles, manors and estates.
  • The heritage policy in practice solely aims at listed or protected heritage. Non-listed heritage sites do not get the opportunity to work on development instruments such as management plans within this decree.
Which partners are working on this?
  • University College Ghent

The Extremadura Operational Programme has allocated EUR 2 billion euro of funding with the aim to stimulate economic growth and strengthen the civil society in the Extremadura region.

One of the investment objectives addressed (6.3.1) is to boost protection, promotion and development of cultural heritage. The main objective of this instrument is the valorization of cultural and natural heritage resources of the region.

The creation of cultural heritage itineraries focused on castles and fortifications that are located mainly in rural areas with a great natural value (including their physical or virtual recreation) is a priority for the promotion of sustainable tourism in the region and the improvement of the economic development of isolated rural areas.

The operational programme has several issues at implementation level due to different factors. The political situation at a national and regional level, delays in information and approval of budgets, the limitation of resources, the necessity of new solutions for adequate exploitation of castles and fortifications (both public and private).

INNOCASTLE will address a clear necessity in the region of Extremadura, the correct valorization and sustainable exploitation of the local cultural heritage.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Provincial Government of Badajoz

The main objective of the Policy Programme “Culture and Heritage” is to enhance the conservation of protected heritage in the province of Gelderland in combination with suitable use and a better experience of the heritage involved.

The main goals of this policy programme are:

  • The positioning of heritage as a structural part of spatial plans based on actual information
  • Well-organised heritage sector in the province
  • Good condition of listed monuments, both buildings and gardens, parks, archeological monuments etc.
  • Innovation of the heritage practice, notably on economic significance, sustainability, skills and financing. 

Owners of castles manors and estates in the Province of Gelderland, especially private ones, come forward with questions on economic viability, sustainability and financing the necessary measures.

At the same time, municipalities in the region are increasingly seeking the support of the province on applying the legislation and other rules on this important body of heritage.

The Province ofGelderland aims to investigate possible changes in the policy so that the needs of owners and municipalities could be met. 

Which partners are working on this?
  • Province of Gelderland