It’s not about the buildings, it’s about the people. Key insights from Innocastle.

​​Historic castles and manors are more than beautiful buildings and gardens. They are (potential) engines of social cohesion and regional growth. All over Europe, castles and manors are facing similar challenges to create sustainable uses for development. Many regions have found directions and functions that bring value and cohesion into local communities and economies. In the past four years, the Interreg Europe project Innocastle shared European experiences and best practices on turning historic castles and manors into regional engines for socio-economic development. A lot of interesting ideas and concepts were uncovered and shared. On 31st August the final conference took place in Alba Iulia, Romania, bringing together authorities and institutions, heritage protection specialists, NGO representatives, owners and managers of historic areas. Partners along with their regional stakeholders looked back at the results and unveiled their next steps of valorising historic castles and manors in their regions.

The Innocastle project ran from 2018-2022 and brought together public organisations from four European countries/regions: the National Heritage Institute (RO) as project initiator, the Province of Gelderland (NL), Ghent University of Applied Sciences and Arts - KASK in the Flemish Region (BE) and the Government of the Province of Badajoz (SP). They are joined by the National Trust (UK) as knowledge partner. Here are some testimonials from the partners as the project is closing: 

For the National Institute of Heritage, the project was an opportunity to identify good practices at international level and find ways to apply them to public policies on heritage financing in Romania. The project helped us understand our gap in collecting data on the impact of investments in heritage restoration projects. It showed us that valuing and valorizing estates requires careful planning and a better linkage with the tourism sector. The local action plan addresses and builds upon these two directions.  
— Raluca Bărbulescu, National Institute of Heritage

Innocastle has been a great opportunity to learn and share with our European colleagues: about how to make historic castles, manors and estates not just viable in their own right, but essential to our regional planning, economic development, climate adaptability and community wellbeing.
— Catherine Leonard, National Trust

We are proud of the introduction of an area based approach that connects the heritage of historical estates to present day challenges such as climate adaptation. Examples of Interreg partners inspired us. The learning case of the Estate zone of the Baakse Beek developed into a showcase that draws (inter)national attention, and is now part of an execution program.
— Paul Thissen, Province of Gelderland 

In the province of Badajoz (Spain), the pilot action has given form to a participatory process involving twelve different local collectives who were already culturally active in the area surrounding the Luna de Alburquerque castle. By putting all of these organisations together, they managed to create a diverse programme for the castle all year round, bundling the strengths of the active local community in the region, to offer activities ranging from sunrise yoga to music and gastronomy events.
Pedro Luis Moraga González, Diputación de Badajoz

With Innocastle, we raised the interest in historic estates within Flemish governmental organisations. At the start of the project, historic estates were almost not present in the Flemish political debate and policies, and today we are pleased to see policy initiatives explicitly focusing on historic estates. 
Bert de Roo, HoGent

The interaction between the regions demonstrated again that we have so much in common. As far as the issue of castles is concerned, the similarities are more obvious than the differences. The exchange of experience and the critical reflection on policy instruments will enhance the quality of policies in the future. The most important lesson is: it is not about the buildings, it is about the people. Working with the communities around the estates, listening to the worries and stories of the owners, searching for a function that benefits not only the owners but also the community. 
Sara Vermeulen, Immovable Heritage Agency in West Flanders

Find out more on making historic estates future-proof from Innocastle’s main deliverables: