The Government has launched its consultation White Paper on proposals to reform the planning system in England. Here Gail Stoten, Executive Director, comments on the new planning reforms from a heritage perspective.
This section and the approach outlined overall in the White Paper may have the effect of front-loading assessment works to the Local Plan stage, pushing back detailed assessment to reserved matters.
However, the main eye-catcher is that the section envisages mapping the unmappable:
‘We envisage that Local Plans will identify the location of internationally, nationally and locally designated heritage assets, such as World Heritage Sites and conservation areas, as well locally important features such as protected views.’
This does not appear to be ditching a consideration of setting, but rather suggesting that it could be distilled into ‘protected views’. This is far from the current situation, where guidance and case law make it clear that setting is about more than views; also that issues of setting (and so which views are important) are not static, so this is likely to attach a very large degree of backlash from consultees.
There is also a far larger problem with this aspiration: locally important features are not simply a data set waiting to be digitised. Not all LPAs hold lists of locally important buildings and no LPAs hold definitive lists of locally important archaeological assets because, most frequently, you don’t know that they are there until you spend time and money looking for them through surveys!
Unless a consideration of undesignated archaeology is to be swept away, this may result in more investigations being needed to inform drafting local plans – at least for proposed allocation sites.
With regards to energy efficiency, the aspirations to see more historic buildings have the ‘right’ energy efficiency measures to support zero-carbon objectives is really interesting. I look forward to a hundred-fold increase in applications for double glazing in Listed buildings. I am also very interested in the idea of whether ‘suitably experienced architectural specialists can have earned the autonomy from routine listed building consents’. I think the key here is what would be the definition of ‘routine’.
Overall, the proposal is broad and a lot of further information is needed as to how it could actually be workable. The key detail for heritage is likely to be contained in the revision of the NPPF (and presumably PPG), anticipated in the Autumn.