Since 2008, Cadw has been developing a method of assessing towns in Wales that aims to show what gives a place its unique identity and provide a baseline assessment of its value and character.  This work is intended to ensure future planning and regeneration strategies strengthen local distinctiveness by identifying what makes a town special.

The studies are built on historical and modern maps, descriptions and photographs as well as fieldwork.  Characterisation starts from visible elements of the town- its topography, layout, patterns of spaces, streets and plots, the types and styles of buildings and underlying archaeology.  Areas of different characters are identified, for example different ages of building and phases of development.  In particular the studies offer an assessment of the importance of key themes in the formation and development of a town and the architectural and spatial strengths that contribute to local distinctiveness.  The studies set out how the character of the town has been formed as a pointer for future planning and design. 

To date characterisation studies have been carried out for Aberdare, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Caernarfon waterfront, Denbigh, Dolgellau, Flint and Pontypool.