In this paper, we examine how conservation-planning and local regeneration in historic urban cores have been re-shaped under austerity conditions and how local planners and local government more generally have negotiated or navigated this emerging austerity terrain. We seek to contribute to wider debates on ‘austerity urbanism’, by examining the impacts of austerity on local planning and how planning officials have attempted to moderate austerity largely imposed by central government (entrenched roll-back neoliberalism) but often through the further roll-out of neoliberalism in local growth strategies. Drawing on the experience of three Irish urban centres, we examine efforts to ‘sell’ the historic city. Both nationally and within the three case study areas, a common overarching theme was evident in the initial post-crisis response to urban development: an emphasis on utilising heritage as a potential economic regeneration pathway. However, while drawing on intangible heritage and heritage narratives for place-branding, the actual protection of tangible built heritage assets was undermined through a greater emphasis on ‘flexible’ planning responses to managing heritage, which seek to minimise barriers to development.