Housing and planning minister John Healey has announced planning policy statement 15: planning for the historic environment
The new guidelines encourage councils and developers to make the most of the nation’s historic assets such as Victorian stations or canals for imaginative developments across the country.
John Healey said: ‘Our historic assets are hugely important for local people and for the tourist industry and we need to conserve and protect them for future generations.
‘This means making these assets part of our plans for regenerating our towns and cities. If you’re redeveloping your town centre you should be making the most of existing streetscapes, canal side sites or former breweries. A prime example is St Pancras where the old station was transformed into a high standard railway whilst retaining Gilbert Scott’s original design.
The new policy, which is accompanied by detailed guidance from English Heritage, said that councils and developers should use the historic environment to stimulate and inspire new buildings and development of imaginative and high quality design.
Councils need to monitor all their historic assets, from listed buildings, conservation areas, scheduled monuments and archaeological sites and landscapes. Some historic buildings from theatres to churches are decaying with age and require quick decisions to secure their future instead of being left in place unmaintained.
Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage said: ‘A key shift in the Planning Policy Statement is that it encourages everyone to first understand what is significant about a particular building and site before implementing change. This should cut the number of poorly thought-through applications and ensure that our heritage can be made fit for a wide range of purposes without damaging what makes it special.
‘Fundamentally, it will help owners of heritage sites and buildings to make better applications, assist local authorities in making robust decisions and ensure that future generations are handed on a heritage that is attractive, useful and relevant.’
Mike Heyworth, director of the Council for British Archaeology and chairmen of Heritage Link’s Spatial Planning Advocacy Group said ‘This is a key consultation as the policy statement will impact on the management of the whole historic environment, not just the elements covered by national designation. The support for local authority historic environment services is crucial, and we need to scrutinise the draft carefully, together with the practice guidance, to ensure that it maximises the opportunities for public benefit.’
The new PPS:
- Ensures there is a focus on understanding what is significant about a building, site or landscape so that it becomes easier to determine the impact of the proposed change. It uses the ‘values’ approach of English Heritage’s Conservation Principles as an underlying philosophy to inform decision-making.
- Urges councils to monitor all their historic assets. For example, local authorities will be urged to create publicly-accessible Historic Environment Records which developers will be expected to consult so that they can take into account the historic environment impacts of their applications.
- Supports constructive conservation. It encourages active exploitation of the heritage as an asset rather than seeing it as a potential barrier to development.
- Introducesnew clearer policies on setting and design, issues which are frequently the source of the most contentious cases involving the historic environment.
- Puts the historic environment in the context of the challenge of climate change. Councils weigh carefully any loss of enhancement of the asset and its setting against the benefits of the application such asincreased production of energy from low or zero-carbon sources. The greater the negative impact on the significance of the asset, the greater the benefits that will be needed to justify approval.
- Deals with all types of heritage in a single document. It brings in a new, integrated approach to the historic environment and ‘heritage assets’, moving beyond the outdated distinction between buildings and archaeology.
- Greater emphasis on pre-application planning and discussion.Councils and developers should learn about the significance of affected heritage assets before designs are drawn up – the more they understand the asset, the greater the chances of a successful application.
- Maintains the same level of protection for the historic environmentas the current PPGs 15 and 16 but expresses the policy much more succinctly making it easier for councils to use (number of pages has been cut from over 100 to around 13).
- Provides greater clarity on key topics e.g. archaeological interest, conservation areas and their preservation and enhancement, World Heritage Sites, conflicts with other planning priorities and recording