You don't have to have grand plans and big architectural teams to tackle these buildings. Small sums of money can provide enormous leverage and once a project gets underway new opportunities arise. Growth can be organic.

Perhaps I ought briefly to explain why I have volunteered to come and stand on this platform this morning. It is primarily because for the last thirty five years or so I have watched in despair as one remarkable industrial building after another has been systematically demolished to make way for what some people liked to describe as 'comprehensive redevelopment'.

And it wasn't just historic industrial buildings that were mercilessly swept away in a fashionable frenzy. There were a few brave souls who begged people to realise the great potential for conversion to new uses , but no one would listen.

As I got older, I tried to persuade policy-makers to see the enormous value to be gained from converting old buildings, but with little success. Now, at long last, and before the dwindling number of our unique heritage buildings are finally expunged from our townscape, it seems that common sense has begun to reappear - albeit hesitantly!

Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen.  If you ever think of trains, you may possibly think of Swindon (or you might think of Train-Spotting - in which case your mind has gone down a branchline marked 'Unsuitable for people under 15 years of age!') and when you think of Swindon you may think of the Great Western Railway Works. So, I am delighted it is possible to hold today's conference at this important collection of historic buildings which lay empty for so many years before the successful regeneration you will see later today.

There are many similar vacant, under-used or derelict industrial buildings of comparable historic or architectural merit in all parts of the United Kingdom. They remain as a fascinating legacy from our industrial past. Like this building, many stand at the core of the communities which grew up around them, and remain icons for their towns and cities.

But of course the world has moved on and with their original purpose gone, all we are left with is the buildings. But these buildings are just as much part of our national heritage as cathedrals, palaces or country houses. Many were built to the highest architectural standards of their day and despite the passage of time remain in remarkably good condition.

I am encouraged that an increasing number of people - although, sadly, not as many makers of public policy as I would like! - are seeing a place for buildings of this sort in the future development of today's built environment. It has always seemed to me that the more social structures and technologies change, the greater is people's desire to retain and treasure the objects and places with which they are familiar. People instinctively feel the need for roots and landmarks in a rapidly changing world.

The decision of the local authority here in Swindon to have fought for so long to avoid demolition of these works was vindicated just a few weeks ago when the government included the Great Western Railway line, including these works, on its list of sites nominated for World Heritage status. Indeed, the majority of sites on the list were buildings of architectural or historic importance from our industrial past. This is, at last, a recognition of the value of these buildings. The challenge now is to look at the many others not included on that list and ensure that, where appropriate, they are conserved and brought back into contemporary use.

My interest in the built environment will not be a surprise to you but you may not know that three years ago I established two initiatives concerned with the conservation and reuse of heritage industrial buildings, the Phoenix Trust - a charity which acquires and develops historic buildings for sale and then recycles the income for further schemes - and Regeneration Through Heritage which has organised this conference to promote awareness of the opportunities offered by heritage industrial buildings and to assist community-based partnerships develop proposals for them.

In view of the government's commitment to 'brownfield' and to environmentally friendly development they are initiatives which I hope will have something to offer for the future. Indeed, the recent publication of figures on the amount of land needed for new house construction has concentrated minds wonderfully. People are looking seriously at the issues and the implications of an inexorable march onto the landscape of Britain.

However, this debate is not new - it has been a central and unresolved issue in regional development and urban renewal for many years. A careful look at regeneration initiatives over the past decade reveals the large amount of vacant land and blight left behind. Indeed, the number of vacant factories, warehouses, mills and depots in our cities is still enormous. To them can be added a huge number of empty shops, flats and houses; and acres of empty land - often in the ownership of health authorities, Railtrack and government departments.

We hear a lot these days about 'joined-up' government. Well, I think it is most certainly time to talk about 'joined-up' regeneration strategies. Too many regeneration initiatives have been undermined by short-term rather than long-term considerations, which have favoured low-cost new-build schemes and produced lots of breeze-block and tin factories or business-parks, even in the heart of our most famous Victorian cities.

They have not taken sufficient account of the opportunities offered by heritage industrial buildings, nor really come to grips with the complications of ownership patterns for inner city land and buildings which require longer-term solutions. This causes developers to configure illogical development sites if they are to meet the requirements of their brief. Policy makers and developers too often make a presumption that 'brownfield' sites mean "cleared and vacant sites." In reality they frequently contain many re-usable buildings often of striking architectural importance. They are a re-usable resource and should be part of our drive to give practical expression to the commitment to sustainability.

I also think it fair to say that few regeneration agencies really have any understanding of how to adapt these buildings to meet present day needs, especially the needs of business. On the other side of the equation, business tends to see these buildings as presenting problems rather than opportunities. All this plays into the hands of those whose first option is wholesale clearance.

Given the fundamental shifts we have seen in our traditional economy, it is tempting for policy makers to argue for the demolition of the old factories and communities. Then what? Are we to recreate the suburbs in the heart of our cities? Or perhaps whole cities are expected to move away to more prosperous areas in order to find work? Surely a better way forward is to promote the process of re-inventing communities where people already live, and recognise the value of the investment both in people and the built environment which already exist, rather than abandon it.

I therefore believe the time is right for a new philosophy to direct our approach to the regeneration of our towns and cities, one which recognises these complexities and opportunities - one which people can understand. After the last war and right up to the 1970s governments carried through an ambitious programme to build new towns. Millions of people were moved from congested cities to new and expanded towns with good facilities, modern houses and workplaces. Lives were transformed for the better. But at a price.

It took years for communities to become established and we had the phenomenon of 'new town blues.' And people felt they were living on building sites. But, crucially, everyone understood that the policy was to move people away from appalling conditions in the cities to good conditions in the new towns. The challenge now, it seems to me, is to catch the popular imagination in the same way with a policy to conserve our precious countryside, use the resources in our towns and cities which now stand idle, and create new and exciting communities in the places where people already live. We can then focus public and private sector effort to achieve this.

If we are to give meaning to any strategy of favouring brownfield development there has to be an explicit recognition that much of the built environment, and especially heritage industrial buildings, represents a sustainable resource from past generations which is capable of being 'recycled' for new uses. We are accustomed to thinking of cities like Bath or Edinburgh as places with a great architectural heritage, but visitors to Manchester, Glasgow and Newcastle are now, at last, beginning to recognise the beauty and value of our heritage from the industrial age. It is significant that the resident population of the city core in Manchester has risen from 400 to 6000 in eight years - almost all living in converted warehouses and mills. Where a choice exists in favour of living in an exciting urban community, people are willing to make it.

Regeneration strategies in the new millennium will also be operating in new economic circumstances. The world has moved into a new economic order - the knowledge-based economy. We need to create new kinds of communities where this can flourish - places where people will want to live and work and will want simply to be. Given a choice, I doubt if they actually want to live in isolated, soulless housing estates; or want long journeys to work, and to spend their working lives on characterless industrial estates and featureless business parks at motorway junctions.

I rather suspect that many people would prefer to be part of living communities characterised by a built environment that reflects something of humanity's gift for artistry. And it is time public policy-makers started to pay attention to an aspiration which has long been suppressed by a fashionable, 'progressive' ideology. And this isn't just a desirable aspiration. Industry is becoming harder and more expensive to attract to areas of high unemployment.

Increasingly communities will have to create more of their own jobs and enterprises, and so the quality of our urban environments will be a central determinant of the levels of economic activity which communities will be able to generate. In the past cities and towns were shaped by the needs of the industrial economy, but at the same time the people who built them never quite forgot that the inhabitants were sentient beings and not machines - hence the industrial buildings reflected something of the natural world and of the innate urge to beautify our surroundings through human craftsmanship.

With the move towards the knowledge-based economy individuals and small groups of people can take control. In a world of smaller scale, high value businesses - often dependent on new technology - people have choices. I hope this will lead to a fundamental shift in our value system and the way we perceive the places we live and work.

Britain's legacy of heritage industrial building therefore offers an ideal place to start the process of rediscovering the essential characteristics of communities for the next century.

Over the years I have been associated with a number of projects to bring redundant industrial buildings of architectural or historic value back into contemporary use. I have also visited many more both in Britain and abroad. I am not talking about the restoration of these buildings just because of their architecture, nor the creation of "Heritage Theme-Park Britain" where we repackage our heritage for the benefit of tourists.

But there is no doubt that these buildings, and the environment in which they stand, can provide a uniquely attractive atmosphere for modern living and working. Above all, we need to rediscover the ingredients for such an atmosphere and try to emulate them in the future. Heritage industrial buildings need to be used and to be adapted. I established Regeneration Through Heritage and the Phoenix Trust precisely because the emphasis should be on identifying contemporary economic, residential and cultural uses for these buildings.

In case I am instantly accused of arguing that we should seek to recreate these buildings as we think they originally were, I am not actually suggesting that we try to build a better yesterday. We should encourage and welcome appropriate new additions and adaptations to our heritage industrial buildings. If these harmonise with the building and the setting they can bring new vitality. Sensitive contemporary design can also add to the value of an old mill or warehouse, and open up opportunities for the future.

Last September I launched the Regeneration Through Heritage Website. It gives some wonderful examples in the United Kingdom and abroad of the successful conversion of heritage industrial buildings, and draws attention to vacant buildings in need of regeneration. I would like to show you some examples of what can actually be achieved.

-----Slide Presentation-----

This is Titus Salt's monumental mill at Saltaire near Bradford. It comprises 800,000 square feet of workspace, was finished in 1853 and provided employment for almost 4,000 people. Production ceased in the late 1970's.

In 1987 it was acquired by a remarkable Yorkshire businessman, Jonathan Silver. Over a ten year period, with patience and vision, Jonathan created a fascinating mixture of exciting contemporary economic and cultural uses, the now internationally recognised art gallery for the works of David Hockney, a popular cafe, á several top quality retail outlets, and one of Britain's fastest growing electronic companies. There are now 2000 jobs in the mill.

This previously vacant mill next door has been redeveloped for housing, and this one refurbished for Bradford's Health Authority. á and there has been a general uplift in the quality of housing in Titus Salt's original planned mill village. As you can see from the new development to the north the mill is the economic engine for the regeneration of the wider community, and in 1996 Saltaire was awarded a Europa Nostra Conservation Prize.

Not far away from Saltaire at Dean Clough in Halifax another remarkable Yorkshire businessman, Sir Ernest Hall, took over a vacant carpet factory in the town centre. It is over one million square feet and was described by the local newspaper as the 'biggest white elephant in the world.'

But again over a period of time Sir Ernest created a whole new economic and cultural hub for Halifax. This complex now houses modern offices, workshops, arts and crafts studios, an art gallery, a quality restaurant and a gymnasium. Slowly space is being transformed and new businesses created. Sir Ernest proved that you can fit just about any modern activity into a Victorian mill without destroying its architecture and character. All these pictures still recognisably look like parts of a mill.

And of course here at Great Western - a site of enormous significance - people wondered what you could do with a railway works once you stop buildings trains. As in Halifax and Saltaire there was a powerful lobby clamouring for demolition. However thanks not least to the vision of McArthur Glen and its Chief Executive, Joe Kaempfer, these most problematic heritage industrial buildings have indeed found new uses.

McArthur Glen has completed the first phase of a modern shopping centre, applying their successful retail formula developed in the shopping malls of the New World to one of the most important heritage industrial buildings in the Old. They transformed this daunting prospect into this familiar scene, and this dereliction has become this.

The scheme is bold and imaginative, yet respecting and retaining the original structure and architecture. Even the recognisably modern additions take their forms from the original and don't look out of place. In today's competitive retail world it would have been easy to build another out-of-town centre which would look the same in Buffalo or Basingstoke. It took courage and vision to tackle a building like this - to create this. McArthur Glen should be recognised and congratulated for undertaking this project and delivering it so well.

Saltaire, Dean Clough and Great Western have all for their success depended on vision and willingness to take risks on the part of great entrepreneurs operating in the real world of business. They are trail blazers. However not all the buildings for which we must find new uses are of such a massive scale.

Many of you will recognise Castlefield in the heart of Manchester where regeneration in this previously derelict canal basin started with the refurbishment of this warehouse for offices. It was a catalyst for other similar buildings, which today give us an exciting city quarter á where people want to be: showing that heritage industrial buildings add value and character to urban regeneration.

This is Stanley Mills, near Perth in Scotland, the first project of my Phoenix Trust initiative. The oldest part was built by Sir Richard Arkwright in 1786, to take advantage of water power from the Tay. The mills were closed in 1989 and the building deteriorated very quickly. The owner wanted to demolish most of it. But the Trust, with Lottery and other grants, acquired the two largest mills to create houses and flats.

Work by the Trust has given others confidence to tackle the rest. A stunning building has been saved, given new life, and its original character preserved. This is Cromford Mill in Derbyshire, Sir Richard Arkwright's first successful water-powered cotton spinning mill, also included in the government's list of recommended sites for World Heritage status.

It is a fine example of a community-based project which used loans, sweat equity, donated materials and grants to save these buildings over a ten year period. In addition to dereliction they cleaned up years of land contamination - these are the original water wheel pits, and redeveloped this recognisable mill interior. to create workspaces for 100 much needed new jobs in this rural community. The restoration respects the architectural integrity of the original - it still looks like a mill - but is now highly sought after workspace and a strong visitor attraction in Derbyshire.

Of course there are many fine industrial buildings in which, for reasons of location or perhaps the level of investment needed, the private sector or established trusts have not become involved. Increasingly, communities no longer wish to be the passive recipients of decisions made elsewhere. They want to be empowered to shape their own futures. There is huge potential out there if only we can harness it. It is often these community groups which see vacant industrial buildings as assets and opportunities rather than liabilities to be demolished.

Another of my initiatives, Regeneration Through Heritage was created precisely to help such communities reclaim these buildings. I would like to show you some examples from Regeneration Through Heritage's pilot projects.

This building is an eighteenth century Quayside Maltings in Mistley, Essex - once the centre of East Anglia's malting industry. It lay almost empty for many years. but was still in reasonable condition. A local partnership has been created which put together a package of new uses. The buildings will accommodate housing, offices, workshops, community facilities, a bar, restaurant and other commercial uses. Buildings previously seen as a liability in the village have now been recognised as an asset.

At a recent Open Day the final proposals were offered for comment. More than 500 local people turned up and only two expressed any opposition. People had been involved in the discussions from the start and really felt empowered by the process.

Community empowerment and ownership is an enormously powerful force for change. This massive mill is in Stockport in Greater Manchester where a partnership has developed a package of proposals for its reuse. A wing has been acquired by a housing association for housing for rent and sale. The local college is taking a floor for its high technology subjects, and Stockport Council has taken two floors for managed workspace to help some of the college graduates start their own businesses.

The owner will refurbish part for commercial letting, and a community group will take the central portion for facilities needed by local people. Work has already started to create an icon building in Greater Manchester which must have an enormously positive impact on the community around it.

On a more modest scale, Regeneration Through Heritage has been working with a community group in Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire. This canal basin has lain neglected for many years but with the reopening of the Rochdale Canal will once again be at the centre of Yorkshire's canal system. These buildings, the Salt Warehouse and the Number 4 Warehouse have been substantially empty and, indeed, almost derelict for many years. Without the local Sea-Scouts who undertook emergency repairs these fabulous eighteenth century gems would have been lost.

Regeneration Through Heritage has put together a partnership to develop a strategy for the basin. They decided they wanted to take advantage of its heritage and waterway function, but avoid gentrification. So proposals were developed to create jobs and opportunities appropriate for local people. The new road is going in, but work has yet to commence on refurbishing the two buildings.

The partnership is confident that it has businesses ready to move in - including a restaurant, a computer software company, a video production company, a training organisation and several high skill office uses. In addition there will be more modest craft workshops and retail uses. These are jobs local people will need. The regeneration of these two buildings will be the catalyst for the regeneration of the whole basin, the commercial market will do the rest.

This is a good example of local people taking control of the situation, developing proposals appropriate to local needs and taking forward implementation. It also shows that a quality heritage environment has real economic value.

Wakefield - this is the Navigation Warehouse in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Built in 1790 it has been empty for 20 years. A voluntary partnership hopes to convert the building to be a gallery for works by Barbara Hepworth - one of our most brilliant sculptors, who was actually from Wakefield. The gallery will attract the visitors needed to lift the whole area. A modern gallery wing will be built alongside, these adjoining mills will be refurbished, and these mills can accommodate new economic activities.

British Waterways plan a whole complex beside the Warehouse to support canal recreation and visitor facilities. The gallery will be the catalyst which creates a new Waterfront Quarter for the city with a development value of £40 million. The local authority has been the driving force here, but it has conceded leadership to the wider partnership in order successfully to secure comprehensive community support. Another example of community partnership delivering results.

-----Conclusion of Slide Presentation----

These projects demonstrate that you can do most of the things required of a modern economy in a British heritage industrial building. They also reflect the shift in our economic base. In addition to conventional jobs we now see housing, culture, leisure and small-scale, high skill enterprises emerging as key drivers of regeneration.

What is more - people actually love these old industrial buildings. They are usually accessible by public transport and instead of swallowing precious greenfield land are helping the wider regeneration of existing communities. Above all, they give back pride to communities because people's spirits are raised by the sheer quality and elegance of the surroundings.

Of course, all of this costs money. We as a nation therefore have to make choices. Community groups seeking to regenerate mills and warehouses are frequently told by public funding agencies that their projects are too expensive and public resources can be better applied elsewhere.

But funding agencies tend to see costs in a very limited way. Heritage buildings can cost more to refurbish than new-build. But if we were to take account of some of the non-attributed or unaccounted costs associated with green field buildings, things might look different. If you add in the provision of infrastructure costs- roads, services and so on - needed to get to green field sites which are met from separate public budgets, and the costs for people to commute from home to work in these locations then I think the picture would look more balanced in favour of regenerating existing buildings, even with the existing rules.

After all, the House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment's Report on Housing specifically recommended a presumption in favour of the re-use of such buildings and the Government accepted this recommendation in its response. There is little doubt that once these buildings have been brought back into use they acquire an important character and value in excess of many of the alternatives on industrial estates and business parks.

I very much hope the new Regional Development Agencies and the Heritage Lottery Fund will recognise that heritage industrial buildings, because of their intrinsic attractiveness and location, have a real merit in the regeneration strategies being developed for the country. Like Salt's Mill and Dean Clough, it is possible to develop a design vision for the entirety and yet undertake it in incremental stages.

You don't have to have grand plans and big architectural teams to tackle these buildings. Small sums of money can provide enormous leverage and once a project gets underway new opportunities arise. Growth can be organic.

You may have heard of my new Prince of Wales Foundation for Architecture and the Urban Environment. I created the Foundation to promote a more integrated form of theory and practice about urban planning, design, architecture and development. It will bring together practitioners and theorists, students and professionals from different backgrounds in order to help us all understand better how to create more liveable urban environments. The Foundation will act as an umbrella for all the existing organisations I have helped to create in this area - including Regeneration through Heritage and the Phoenix Trust.

I am especially delighted the Foundation will be operating from a converted nineteenth century warehouse in East London and from where an ambitious programme of activity is being planned. I want it to be the crucible for a more humane and holistic approach to the way in which we plan and build in the twenty-first century.

My Foundation will give a very practical application to the idea of linking the best of the past with the needs of the future and will, I hope, make a real contribution towards creating better places in which to live and work.

It was the great American urban historian, Lewis Mumford, who wrote that 'If we would lay the foundation for a new urban life, we must first understand the historic nature of the city'. As we wrestle with the regeneration of so many of our urban communities, finding successful new uses for remarkable old buildings is a very tangible way of retaining just such an understanding. And, when all is said and done, I do believe we owe something to those craftsmen who built these buildings with such skill and pride."