HLF funds private sector applicants. Relaunch of Heritage Works. New permitted development guidance. External wall insulation. EPCs and listed buildings. Constructive conservation in Wales. Inadequate DCMS proposals following key consultation on listed building consent reform. Tax raid on heritage confirmed. Local Listing. The NPPF. Heritage crime and metal theft. Improved EH guidance on setting. New guidance on heritage at risk. CLA report Averting crisis in heritage. The National Heritage Protection Plan.
last updated 21 May 2013
Note: some organisations move the contents of their websites around frequently, so links from this page to their sites sometimes get broken. In particular, most English Heritage guidance can be found from www.helm.org.uk under Guidance, English Heritage, then by using the keyword search tool.
EPCs FOR LISTED BUILDINGS (21 MAY 2013)
The Government now finally seems to have provided clear written confirmation in a list of exempt buildings on the www.gov.uk website that Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are (since 9 January) no longer required for listed buildings. It appears that this also means that listed buildings are exempt from the Minimum Energy Performance Regulations under the Energy Act 2011, which will potentially from 2018 prohibit the letting of buildings with F or G EPC ratings; the CLA is involved in several working parties advising on the drafting of the regulations and will monitor this alongside other points.
HERITAGE LOTTERY FUND NOW ACCEPTS APPLICATIONS FROM PRIVATE AND COMMERCIAL OWNERS (15 APRIL 2013)
The HLF now accepts applications for up to £100,000 from the private sector for heritage projects, provided that they meet the HLF's wider criteria, that they achieve a 'step-change' in public access, and that public benefit exceeds any private benefit. This is potentially a dramatic change, achieved after many years of persuasion, from its previous assumption that any private benefit was unacceptable. (It has for some years accepted private sector applications within much larger schemes within its Townscape Heritage Initiative and Landscape Partnership schemes, and these are continuing).
The HLF has helped the HHA to produce guidance for private sector applicants. The CLA will strongly encourage private sector applicants with appropriate projects to apply (obviously, good applications will encourage the HLF to continue and expand the scheme and widen its scope, and conversely any lack of applications might threaten its continuation), but discourage applications which do not meet the criteria because these will not succeed.
BATS IN HISTORIC BUILDINGS (20 FEBRUARY 2013)
Members may be interested in Nicholas Coleridge's article in Country Life about the bat industry and its impacts on historic buildings. The response of IEEM is here. The Natural England/National Trust/English Heritage guidance is here.
'HERITAGE WORKS' RELAUNCHED (7 FEBRUARY 2013)
English Heritage, the British Property Federation, and the RICS today relaunched their joint Heritage Works publication, a guide to owners, developers, local authorities, and others on heritage regeneration. This is likely to be helpful to those carrying out projects, especially large projects, involving heritage. It includes a restatement of English Heritage's 'constructive conservation' policy, including (on page 7) "[we] have worked hard to remove the common misconception that listed buildings must be 'preserved' just as they are... The goal is...managing change... This approach will allow a listed building to change and adapt to new uses and circumstances..". Unfortunately not all local authority (or even English Heritage) staff yet take this approach, and this is additional material members may wish to quote when seeking consent for sympathetic change (and clearly, though this talks about listed buildings, it would be equally or more applicable to other kinds of heritage).
PERMITTED DEVELOPMENT CLARIFIED (16 JANUARY 2013)
If a change to a building or land is 'permitted development', that change is, under the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO), deemed already to have planning permission, so you can carry it out without having to make a planning application (though other consents may still be required). The GDPO is notoriously complicated, but much-extended Technical Guidance for residential property issued in January 2013 explains it in detail, so that what you can and cannot do as permitted development should in future be much clearer.
PERMITTED DEVELOPMENT FOR WALL INSULATION (16 JANUARY 2013)
The main reason for updating the GDPO guidance (see above) was to clarify the position on external wall insulation (EWI) in dwellings. As a material change to the exterior this needs planning permission, and (at least arguably) EWI has not been permitted development until now. From now EWI is defined (see page 13 of the guidance) as an 'improvement' within the GDPO (Part 1 Class A), so it will not normally require a planning application (unless you are in a National Park, AONB, Conservation Area, or World Heritage Site; and of course listed building consent would usually be required if the building is listed). There are some restrictions (see condition A3).
At first sight this relaxation might appear to be good news for building owners, but it is important to consider that (a) continuing research suggests that the positive carbon impacts of EWI are not as great as previously thought; (b) it may well lead to mould and condensation inside and within the wall, and even structural failure; (c) it may damage the aesthetic, and financial, values of the building; (d) you should ask rigorous questions about the longevity of the cladding, and its financial justification; and (e) everyone else (perhaps all the house-owners in your village) is also potentially free to clad their buildings. There may now be a rapid growth of EWI, because the ECO attached to the new Green Deal will subsidise EWI by up to £760m a year, every year, across England (at the cost of energy bill payers). The CLA is lobbying to minimise the negative effects of this on traditional buildings (we raised this at a meeting with DECC on 14 January).
VITAL NEW RESEARCH ON THE ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF HERITAGE (2 DECEMBER 2012)
It has never been possible in England to answer many of the most basic and obvious questions about heritage, like "how many heritage buildings are there?", "how much is spent on them?", and "who pays the costs?" Heritage lobbying has therefore been based largely on arguing that heritage is a vital part of our culture and very important to us all. 10+ years of cuts to English Heritage and (importantly) to heritage resourcing in local authorities suggest that these arguments, however true, have not been very effective.
The CLA has been lobbying for years for a proper evidence base for heritage, and this was a key recommendation in our Averting crisis in heritage in 2011. Attempts in 2012 to defend the VAT zero-rating of alterations to listed buildings without any evidence base further underlined the need for a more evidenced and scientific approach. English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund have now published The Economic Impact of Maintaining and Repairing Historic Buildings in England (2012). This catches up with equivalent research in all the other UK countries in 2006-10, and is a major step forward. It quantifies construction work to heritage at £10.6 bn pa, and as the source of some 500,000 jobs and £26 bn of overall economic activity. Further work is needed (especially on listed buildings, and to answer the "who pays?" question, mainly to dispel the risible but persistent myth within Government that it does). But at last the heritage sector now has at least the beginnings of a serious evidence base which could be used to demonstrate the very substantial overall economic value of heritage, its huge net profitability for Government, and the dangers to that posed by unevidenced attacks like that on VAT zero-rating in 2012.
CONSTRUCTIVE CONSERVATION IN WALES (1 NOVEMBER 2012)
The Welsh Government's potentially-promising new Historic Environment Strategy for Wales, after years of CLA lobbying, takes a further step away from old-fashioned heritage policies based on preservation in aspic and towards the 'constructive conservation' approach which is the core of CLA heritage policy. It recognises (page 6) "the economic reality faced by owners and managers who need to ensure a sustainable future for historic assets", and adds (page 11) that "we need to do what we can to explode the myths surrounding heritage protection - designation [of heritage] is not a preservation order; change and development are possible and often to be welcomed..." These are statements members may wish to quote in support of applications for sympathetic proposals. The Strategy also suggests that significant change may be needed to current legislation, policy, and delivery mechanisms, and is part of a process which will include a review of the heritage chapter of Planning Policy Wales, and a Heritage Bill in 2014-15. The CLA is part of a small external reference group of key stakeholders which is taking this forward.
INADEQUATE DCMS RESPONSE AFTER THE KEY CONSULTATION 'IMPROVING LISTED BUILDING CONSENT' (10 OCTOBER 2012)
The current listed building consent system is failing, mainly because governments have failed to fund the expert resourcing it requires in local authorities. This has been inadequate for years, and - worse - is now being cut by around 10 per cent each year. These cuts are very clearly not going to be reversed, and if the system is not reformed it faces progressive collapse. That would clearly not be in the interest of heritage, or of those who look after it. This was a core topic in the CLA policy report Averting Crisis in Heritage in 2011, and the CLA has lobbied for change for years, especially through the Penfold Review (see below).
Following on from the Penfold Review Implementation Report in November 2011, a short DCMS consultation Improving Listed Building Consent which closed on 23 August 2012 invited suggestions for reform which could be incorporated into the current Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (E&RR Bill; see below).
The DCMS consultation suggested several vague reform options, based on the headline proposals set out in the Government's Penfold Review Implementation Report in November 2011 (see below), but disappointingly did not add any of the detail which is so obviously needed if these are to work in practice. Unsurprisingly, therefore, most of the 432 responses were critical, though many acknowledged that there is a serious problem which needs to be addressed. Taking DCMS's vague proposals as a starting point, therefore, the CLA response set out (see especially its Annexes) effective ways in which the LBC process could be improved.
DCMS's response, unsurprisingly given the inadequacy of its consultation proposals, does not address the problems in any meaningful way. It has added to the heritage clauses already in the E&RR Bill a new Certificate of Lawful Works to a Listed Building, and a system of national class consents for specific organisations like the Canal & River Trust, and of local class consents operable by local authorities (in the unlikely event that they wished, and had the spare resource, to set them up). While all these were on the CLA's long-list of desirable changes to heritage legislation, and are welcome as far as they go, in no sense do they provide the transformational change which is essential if we are to have a future heritage protection system which will actually protect our heritage effectively. This is unfinished business; the key question is how much more damage is done to our heritage (and to those like CLA members who try to look after it) before DCMS eventually accepts that meaningful change is needed.
TAX RAID ON HERITAGE GOES AHEAD, BUT WITH SLIGHTLY IMPROVED TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS (UPDATED 25 JULY 2012)
Readers will be all too aware of the Government's Budget decision, without any prior consultation or warning, to abolish the VAT zero-rating of approved alterations to listed buildings from October 2012. On Government figures, the imposition of full-rate VAT will add another £125m a year to the huge profit Government already makes from heritage. The CLA immediately (we were quoted in a Daily Telegraph article on 22 March) began a campaign against this, working with the Heritage Alliance and Cut-the-VAT Campaign. We made a formal and detailed response to the Treasury, including a selection from the many case studies provided by CLA members. We also met both the Exchequer Secretary David Gauke and the Heritage Minister John Penrose, and have had several letters printed in national newspapers, including for example a joint letter and an article in The Times on 14 June 2012.
This campaign demolished the Government's arguments for the change, showing that alterations far from being "unnecessary" are vital to the survival of listed buildings, and that the net additional tax revenue would be much less than claimed and the economic and heritage damage much greater. The change removes just about the only surviving advantage of having a building listed, so that the impact of listing on owners will in future be almost entirely negative, which inevitably will tend to corrode owner support for the listing system. Worse, it will also greatly increase the cost of rescuing buildings at risk, because the work involved is now substantially zero-rated and will cost 20 per cent more in future, so that many rescues of heritage at risk will no longer happen. We also argued that such a large and irreversible change should not be made on a whim, without evidence, and in most instances retrospectively.
Unfortunately the Government is so convinced that heritage doesn't sway any votes that it treated these arguments with contempt throughout, and is pressing ahead anyway. The months of lobbying has at least caused it to improve the transitional arrangements, so that those who had applied for listed building consent before 21 March can generally avoid the new tax, but that does not benefit those who had not applied, or all future projects.
The CLA has published on this website guidance on the change and on how to minimise VAT on heritage work.
The CLA is also a member of the Cut-the-VAT campaign to reduce VAT on works to domestic buildings to 5 per cent, which would greatly benefit not only heritage buildings but others and the hardest-hit parts of the construction industry (see below, and again the heritage tax page).
GOVERNMENT PUBLISHES FIRST MODEST STAGE OF NEW HERITAGE LEGISLATION (UPDATED 25 JULY 2012)
As part of the CLA and heritage sector campaign to rescue the rapidly-collapsing heritage protection system (see extensive comment below, and especially the July 2011 CLA paper Averting crisis in heritage), the CLA has for years been seeking new heritage legislation. Since 2009 we have progressed this particularly through the Penfold Review of Non-Planning Consents (the CLA's Heritage Adviser sat on its Sounding Board), and by encouraging BIS (the sponsoring department for the Penfold Review) to take this forward, and in November 2011 the Government published a Penfold Review Implementation Update Report which promised new heritage legislation.
The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill published on 23 May 2012 makes a helpful though very modest start on this, by making (see its Schedule 16) a number of amendments to existing heritage legislation. The main changes abolish Conservation Area Consent by merging it with planning permission, allow parts of buildings to be specifically excluded from listing, and allow Heritage Partnership Agreements between local authorities and heritage owners to be put on a statutory basis. The CLA has provided evidence to the Public Bill Committee scrutinising the Bill.
These are useful and generally-uncontroversial changes which were quick to draft and will be of some benefit in a small minority of cases, but nobody could claim that they are the solution to the main problem in heritage protection, that local authorities simply do not have the skilled staff needed to operate the current system (for more detail, see our January 2012 commentary on the Penfold heritage proposals).
The next and much more important stage is the Penfold "B1 and B2 proposals" which directly address the problem by changing the system so that much less local authority resource goes into dealing with harmless and beneficial proposals, allowing resources to be re-targeted into the cases which really matter, and into properly-targeted enforcement. It is of paramount importance that they are put into a workable form (the CLA has already made detailed suggestions on this) and incorporated into legislation as quickly as possible. We have had meetings to discuss this with John Penrose, Minister for Heritage, and Baroness Andrews, Chair of English Heritage, and have published a draft report on ways in which the proposals could be implemented. For the DCMS consultation on this, see above.
GOOD PRACTICE GUIDE FOR LOCAL LISTING (18 MAY 2012)
After several years of gestation and CLA lobbying, English Heritage has just published a new Good practice guide to local heritage listing. Local listing has been carried out by some local authorities for years, sometimes on an almost 'drive-by' basis with no involvement of owners, and there has been no national guidance. While it does not require some 'locally listed building consent' to be obtained, it is and has always been material in the planning process, meaning that it has to be taken into account if you need planning permission for the affected building or development nearby.
This new guidance - which is part of the move to 'localism' - encourages local listing, but only where a transparent and proportionate process is followed, including in particular consultation of owners, and it emphasises that local listing is unlikely to work effectively unless owners feel they have been consulted (p20). The existence of guidance will make it more difficult for local authorities to construct 'drive-by' local lists in future, or to list buildings without following clear criteria based on genuine heritage significance, and would make such lists less material in the planning process if they did happen.
NATIONAL PLANNING POLICY FRAMEWORK (27 MARCH 2012)
The NPPF was launched today and replaces the previous national heritage planning policy in PPS5 with immediate effect. PPS5 was (after years of CLA lobbying) a great improvement on the policy which preceded it, but nevertheless contained a number of important flaws. The NPPF was an opportunity finally to get heritage planning policy right, but unfortunately its historic environment chapter has failed to do that. Among other important failings, it still shockingly does not say explicitly that heritage needs to be allowed to be changed in sympathetic ways if it is to be relevant and valued and maintained in the long term, which is probably the single most fundamental principle of heritage protection. It may be possible to address these inadequacies in guidance, but it would have been much better to get them right in the NPPF itself. The existing guidance which accompanied PPS5 remains in force.
HERITAGE CRIME (21 MARCH 2012)
The CLA has long been concerned - not least at county and regional levels - about rural crime, including in particular heritage crime. Heritage crime is now being taken much more seriously, with the launch in 2011 of the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage (ARCH) of which the CLA is a member. English Heritage has commissioned research, published in March 2012, which shows high levels of crime: for example 19 per cent of listed buildings are physically affected by crime each year, 8 per cent seriously, and 12 per cent of heritage is affected by antisocial behaviour. Much of this research was based on surveys of heritage owners and managers, including CLA members. English Heritage has a web page about ARCH which has links including to a two-page summary of the research. Combined with new regulation on the sale of stolen metals (see below), there is a real possibility that the scale of crime could be significantly reduced, but ARCH especially needs owners to report heritage crime to the police, because if it is not reported the problem is much more difficult to cure. Heritage Minister John Penrose praised the work of ARCH and promised further Government support at a heritage crime conference today.
METAL THEFT FROM HERITAGE BUILDINGS (15 MARCH 2012)
Heritage - especially lead and copper on roofs - is a particular target of the current epidemic of metal theft, and some CLA members have suffered repeated and costly attacks and have real difficulty in getting insurance cover. English Heritage has produced guidance (see 23 October 2011 below), but the problem needs to be tackled at its roots. The CLA has been campaigning to change the law ("Take the cash out of scrap"). In a meeting with CLA President Harry Cotterell on 14 March the minister, Lord Henley, promised early legislation to outlaw cash payment as part of the Legal Aid, Punishment, and Sentencing of Offenders Bill.
NEW ENGLISH HERITAGE GUIDANCE ON THE SETTING OF HERITAGE ASSETS (25 OCTOBER 2011)
Setting is a vital subject because it potentially affects any proposed development anywhere near heritage. Poor policy could either result in parts of our heritage being spoiled by bad development or, conversely, in large areas around any heritage becoming no-go zones for any change. The CLA was very critical of earlier drafts of this guidance, stressing especially that setting issues are a deciding factor only in a small minority of planning applications and do not have to be expensively considered in all the others. We also attacked the guidance's length, at a time when Government is trying to reduce the volume of planning guidance, and its unnecessarily theoretical approach. The final version The setting of heritage assets: English Heritage Guidance is (though not perfect) greatly improved. It is shorter, less theoretical, stresses the importance of a proportionate approach (see 4.1-4.2), and sticks much more closely to national planning policy in PPS5. It will be reviewed when the National Planning Policy Framework is published.
MAJOR NEW ENGLISH HERITAGE GUIDANCE ON HERITAGE AT RISK (25 OCTOBER 2011)
English Heritage (EH) monitors annually the condition of Scheduled Monuments, Conservation Areas, and Grade I and II* listed buildings at Heritage at Risk. The 2011 report looks in addition at industrial heritage, a substantial proportion of which is at risk.
Prompted by the DCMS Heritage Minister John Penrose, EH has just issued a 115-page revised and enlarged edition of Stopping the Rot (or see here), its guidance to local authorities (LPAs) on the numerous powers they have to require owners of heritage to repair. These powers are explained in detail, with case studies and template letters. They are numerous and complex, and little-used: 60 per cent of LPAs have not used them in the last five years. Stopping the Rot aims to help LPAs to use them more. John Penrose's introduction stresses that heritage is generally well looked after by its owners, and that the use of these powers shoud be exceptional, but that they should be used in appropriate cases if negotiations fail.
There is also further new guidance Vacant historic buildings: an owner's guide to temporary uses, maintenance, and mothballing, which is mostly sensible, though it is not as forceful as we suggested it needs to be in persuading reluctant LPAs that they need to grant consents for temporary uses.
LEAD AND COPPER THEFT AND ENGLISH HERITAGE GUIDANCE (23 OCTOBER 2011)
Many CLA members have suffered in the current epidemic of metal theft (the CLA's Heritage Adviser at a recent conference at a Grade I house in Berkshire looked down on a tarpaulin in place of the lead roof on the porch). It is not wholly unfair to say that English Heritage's traditional reaction has been to ignore epidemics of theft until prices finally start to fall, and then to say "prices are falling, so the problem is going away". This time, however, EH is taking real action. Most importantly, it has joined the CLA and others in seeking changes to the 1964 Scrap Metal Dealers Act; licensing dealers and banning cash transactions might lead to a permanent reduction in this major problem. Secondly, its major Heritage Crime Initiative, in which the CLA has been involved, is improving procedures and drawing attention to the seriousness of heritage crime, which in the past has had little police attention, few convictions, and low fines. Thirdly, EH has just greatly revised its guidance Theft of metal from church buildings (despite this oddly narrow title, EH acknowledges that it is also applicable to other buildings). This provides advice on theft prevention and examines alternatives to lead and copper, particularly terne-coated stainless steel, though there are no clearly-better options.
HERITAGE COUNTS 2011 PUBLISHED (23 OCTOBER 2011)
At the end of July, the Government launched a consultation on the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), a vital document which will set out national planning policy and replace all current planning policy, including the heritage policy in PPS5. The CLA fought hard to get PPS5, and it is essential to ensure that the NPPF builds on the strengths of PPS5 - its much greater stress on proportionality and on conserving significance rather than on preservation in aspic - and removes its weaknesses.
THE CLA REPORT "AVERTING CRISIS IN HERITAGE" (1 AUGUST 2011)
CLA President William Worsley and Heritage Adviser Jonathan Thompson launched a new vision for England’s heritage system, Averting Crisis in Heritage: A CLA Report on Reforming a Crumbling System, on 14 July 2011.
Averting Crisis in Heritage has attracted significant media coverage, including a two-page article in Country Life on 13 July (online version available here) and a feature in Building Design. It has been welcomed by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation.
Most CLA members look after heritage, and many find it much too difficult to get consent for the sympathetic changes they need to make if it is to be valued and earn its keep in the future. Averting Crisis in Heritage puts forward a detailed package of changes to make the system work more effectively.
Everyone accepts that there are problems, and a 'Heritage Protection Review' has being ongoing since 1999. Although this has led to improved planning policy for heritage in PPS5, otherwise the solutions put forward by Government and English Heritage have either not happened or not worked, because they required a major Heritage Bill which did not (and will not) happen, or because they cost money which was not forthcoming, or because they did not identify or address the real problems.
In contrast, the CLA recommendations are explicitly designed to be realistic and implementable. The report analyses the real problems - which are mainly rooted in the growing lack of skilled staff in local authorities - and identifies solutions which will make the system work better without more resources.
The recommendations require little action from Government, and increase, not reduce, heritage protection, especially the real protection which follows from heritage being used and appreciated. There are specific recommendations on traditional rural buildings and on perverse climate change policy.
The report's proposals had detailed informal input and “peer review” from many people across the heritage sector. They also draw parallels with the ongoing reform of other regulatory regimes like the Environmental Permitting Programme.
The CLA sees heritage as a key part of the future, not just the past, and we want to work with English Heritage and others in the heritage world to devise and implement changes which will allow the system to protect our heritage more effectively. English Heritage has responded to Averting Crisis in Heritage in some detail - its response denies that there is a crisis, but makes constructive comments on the CLA's recommendations.
Download Averting Crisis in Heritage: A CLA Report on Reforming a Crumbling System here: http://www.cla.org.uk/policy_docs/AvertingCrisisinHeritage.pdf
LOCALISM AND NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANNING (8 APRIL 2011)
English Heritage has just published guidance on heritage in rural community-led planning, Knowing your place, which sensibly(after years of CLA and Rural Coalition lobbying)stresses the need for change and economic activity in rural areas and not the preservation of heritage in aspic.
COURT OF APPEAL DECISION CHANGES LAW ON DEMOLITION (25 MARCH 2011)
A Court of Appeal decision in the Mitchell's Brewery case SAVE Britain's Heritage v CLG, reported 25 March 2011, appears to have radically changed the law on demolition.
The headline change is that all demolitions which could have “significant effects on the environment” now require Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) under EU law. Previously, the UK position was that demolition, however extensive, was incapable of requiring an EIA. Many will welcome this change because it may prevent local authorities and others tearing down large areas of buildings without any effective consent process; for example it may stop the “Pathfinder” schemes in which local authorities in northern England have compulsorily purchased streets of Victorian houses from their owners, usually paying derisory compensation, in order to pull them down.
But there are much wider consequences as follows:
The Government has written a letter to Chief Planning Officers which seems to add to, rather than reduce, the confusion as to when planning permission is needed. We await its longer-term reaction; CLG does not seem to see this as a priority but presumably as a minimum it will have to rewrite the "demolition directive".
ENGLISH HERITAGE'S NATIONAL HERITAGE PROTECTION PLAN (13 FEBRUARY 2011)
English Heritage needs a powerful strategy for its key statutory responsibility, which is its role in the struggling heritage protection system. Unfortunately its draft National Heritage Protection Plan (NHPP), even in its second incarnation, the Interim Plan, does not provide this. Instead it remains a Grand Projet which almost ignores the struggling heritage consent system and focuses on new designation, suggesting new, exciting and expensive pre-designation and designation activities.
The CLA response to the earlier pre-consultation version of the NHPP said that these expensive proposals are, however laudable in theory, unrealistic at a time of falling resources. It stressed the need instead for a 'quick and dirty' NHPP which focuses on the crisis in the heritage consent system, especially in local authorities, and on applying EH's Constructive Conservation policy to keep heritage viable and relevant so that it is less likely to fall into disrepair. The CLA response to the Interim version says much the same. The final Plan was published in April 2011. The CLA's Heritage Adviser sits on the NHPP's Advisory Board.
MEETING WITH BARONESS ANDREWS, CHAIR OF ENGLISH HERITAGE (22 JANUARY 2011)
CLA President William Worsley and Heritage Adviser Jonathan Thompson had a useful meeting with Baroness Andrews, EH Chairman, on 18 January 2011. Issues discussed included the future priorities of the much-cut EH, which will be heritage protection including EH's role in the planning system, and the management of the national collection, ie its own estate of buildings it opens to the public. Areas like outreach are being cut, as are grants (though these are already minimal for non-charitable owners). She confirmed, importantly, that EH's Constructive Conservation policy will remain at the core of EH's forthcoming new Strategic Plan. We were critical of EH's draft 'National Heritage Protection Plan' which (see below) is almost entirely about designation, and fails to tackle the many problems in the heritage consent system.
FEES FOR LISTED BUILDING CONSENT (12 JANUARY 2011)
A rushed Government consultation which has just closed proposed changes to the planning fees system, to be implemented by April 2011 (the full CLA response is here).
The consultation itself did not propose fees for listed building consent (LBC), which has always been fee-free, but a lobbying campaign led by local authorities has been arguing for fees to be imposed on all heritage applications from April 2011. The heritage section of the CLA response therefore sets out the many arguments against fees, which have always been opposed by the CLA (and by heritage organisations). More importantly, it also sets out the case for fundamental reform of the LBC system, which is descending into crisis as its resourcing is repeatedly cut. Although the CLA remains resolutely opposed to fees under the current failing system, it says that as part of the price of a reformed system (which would greatly benefit both CLA members and heritage) fees might be acceptable for higher-value-added and/or inadequate applications. We have also written to the relevant Minister about this and encouraged others to do so too.
THE CAP TOWARDS 2020 (18 NOVEMBER 2010)
The European Commission today launched its (widely-leaked) blueprint for the post-2013 future of the Common Agricultural Policy. The CAP underlies schemes which benefit heritage, especially Environmental Stewardship. Past CAP reforms have moved away from paying farmers to farm towards paying for 'public goods', including environmental goods like landscape, heritage, and biodiversity. That direction of travel, which is very much in line with CLA policy, may be less apparent in this interim document. While the CLA sees it as 'broadly on track', and it is not surprising that it does not specifically mention heritage, there is less stress on other environmental benefits (other than climate change) and we will continue to lobby, with others including the Heritage Alliance, to ensure that the need for these public goods is fully recognised in the reformed CAP.
ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP AND REPAIR OF TRADITIONAL FARM BUILDINGS (16 NOVEMBER 2010)
DEFRA has announced that it will be placing a cap of £150,000 over three years on farm building repair projects under HLS (the Environmental Stewardship Higher Level Scheme). This is mainly because of EU State Aid rules, and this cap is in itself not necessarily a problem for members, but there is an implication in the wording of the announcement that money would be better spent on other things rather than heritage, and with the Heritage Alliance we are reminding DEFRA that the historic environment, though it gets only a tiny proportion of the overall funding is, rightly, one of the five principal objectives of Environmental Stewardship.
GOVERNMENT ACCEPTS PENFOLD REVIEW OF NON-PLANNING CONSENTS IN ENGLAND (16 NOVEMBER 2010)
The Government has accepted the key recommendations of the Penfold Review of non-planning consents in its Final Report, which was published on 5 July. Like the interim report, this identifies heritage consents as one of the three most problematic groups of non-planning consents in terms of causing delay, extra costs, or the abandonment of desirable development. The Review does not of course question the need for heritage protection, and acknowledges some helpful work to improve the system already done by English Heritage and others.
Some Penfold recommendations accepted by Government have considerable potential. The Review obviously could not investigate the biggest problem in heritage protection, the gross under-resourcing of the current resource-hungry system in local authorities, which was outside its remit. But many of its recommendations are directed at dealing with this fundamental issue, by finding innovative ways of focusing rapidly-declining resources intelligently to achieve the greatest effect. On listed building consent, it suggests substantial changes, potentially greatly reducing the number of low-impact applications by better explaining what does need consent and what does not, and by using alternative methods like self-certification by experts so that many medium-impact applications would make lower demands on the system, so as to focus the resources which will actually be available mainly on the minority of applications which might have significantly negative impacts on heritage (see 3.22-3.27, and recommendation F).
The CLA strongly supports this kind of commonsense approach, which offers a chance actually to improve the protection offered by the current system rather than watch it stagger towards collapse as local authorities cut their conservation resources even further. The CLA has supported the Final Report, not just on heritage, still has its place on the Review's Sounding Board, and will be watching and supporting implementation.
NEW CLG GUIDANCE ON ARTICLE 4 DIRECTIONS (11 NOVEMBER 2010)
Article 4 Directions can be used by local authorities, for individual sites or wider areas like Conservation Areas, to suspend the permitted development rights owners would otherwise have to build alterations and extensions and (in some cases) new buildings without having to apply for planning permission. In practice they are used in some Conservation Areas and occasionally elsewhere. The Department for Communities and Local Government has just issued new guidance on Article 4 Directions which (after CLA lobbying) stresses that they should only be used where there is a genuine justification. It puts time limits on entitlement to compensation (though this has rarely been claimed in practice).
SIGNIFICANT CUTS IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUNDING LIKELY TO FURTHER DAMAGE THE HERITAGE CONSENT SYSTEM (20 OCTOBER 2010)
The 28 per cent Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) headline cut in central funding for local government is likely to be seen as a reason to reduce conservation and planning resourcing in the local authorities which take heritage and planning consent decisions.
These areas, thougha tiny part of the overall picture,are seen as 'soft targets' by most authorities, and resourcing was already falling rapidly before the CSR cuts were announced. The heritage consent system is already largely 'privatised', in the sense that those who pay competent consultants to argue a convincing case usually get consent, but others very often do not. This will be even more true in future, but it is questionable whether, in the absence of the fundamental reform advocated by the CLA,the system in future will even have the resources needed to process the consultants' reports and say 'no' to everyone else.
ENGLISH HERITAGE SURVIVES THE BONFIRE OF QUANGOS BUT IS HEAVILY CUT (20 OCTOBER 2010)
English Heritage (EH) is neither to be scrappednor merged with the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), asthe quango policyleak several weeks ago had suggested, but now faces a 32 per cent funding cut on top of the substantial cuts it has already suffered over the last 10 years.
Abolition and merger were repeatedly embraced by the previous Government,but abandoned on more reasoned consideration.There islittle logic in a EH/HLF merger, beyond the fact that both have 'heritage' in the title: they have different remits, functions, and geographical coverage.EH's announcement today that it "will ensure there is no overlap in the services we provide" may imply ahanding over of EH's already much-cut grant-giving activity to the HLF which would further reduce the now minimalamount of grant available to the private sector via DCMS bodies, because the HLFhas been convinced from its inceptionthat funding the private sector must by definition be unacceptably risky.
The much-cut EHis to be further cut following the Comprehensive Spending Review on 20 October. Its 32 per cent cut is much higher than the 25 per cent average across DCMS, its sponsoring department. EH's Commissionersmet on 27 October and EH has announced that it will prioritise four areas: planning advice, designation, maintaining its own properties, and existing grant commitments.The CLA view is that EH needs to focus particularly on its primary statutory responsibilities, especially supportingthe struggling heritage consent system, as was suggested in the CLA response to EH's latest Grand Projet, the National Heritage Protection Plan (see below, 1 July 2010).
SENSIBLE NEW ENGLISH HERITAGE GUIDANCE ON MARQUEES AND OTHER TEMPORARY STRUCTURES NEAR HERITAGE (6 OCTOBER 2010)
After extensive and detailed CLA lobbying over a long period, English Heritage has published for the first time guidance on temporary structures in historic places, a key issue for anyone wishing to use marquees or other structures near historic buildings or gardens or parks, and until now generally a disaster area in which planning permission was difficult or impossible to obtain either initially or at appeal. The final version of the new policy is mainly commonsense, taking EH's Constructive Conservation policy on board, and mentioning proportionality throughout. It says that "there should not be apresumption against temporary structures simply because they are visible in the historic environment", which may seem a statement of the obvious but is a complete reversal of standard practice on the ground. This should be of considerable help to members, although local authorities and even EH regional offices may well be reluctant to take account of it in practice unless it is assertively pointed out to them.
NEW GUIDANCE ON PERMITTED DEVELOPMENT FOR HOUSEHOLDERS (3 SEPTEMBER 2010)
The General Permitted Development Order allows various forms of development (like some house extensions) to be carried out without a planning application. The rules however are extremely complicated, have changed frequently,and present many apparent grey areas. The Government has now published new guidance on householder permitted developmentwhich make this considerably clearer.
SELECT COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO HERITAGE FUNDING (3 SEPTEMBER 2010)
The House of Commons Culture Media and Sport Select Committee announced in late July a new fast-track Inquiry into arts and heritage funding, presumably to influence the Treasury and DCMS in implementing theComprehensive Spending Review in and after October 2010. The CLA's evidence to the Committee in general termspoints out that, unlike 'arts', heritage is already almost entirely funded by its owners and occupiers/users, and also that, unlike arts (etc) funding, public heritage funding has already been greatly cut. It stresses the importance ofan efficient,iesubstantially reformed, heritage protection system, becauseour currentlypoor system is increasingly creating market failure, and says that targeted public funding for heritage is justified in that minority of cases where the market cannot keep heritage in good repair. The evidence to the Inquiry and the written evidenceis on the UK Parliament website.
NEW MAINTENANCE MATTERS WEBSITE (9 JULY 2010)
Cadw has launched a new Maintenance Matters websitewhich provides general information on maintaining traditional buildings and also allows you to create online maintenance plans for individual buildings. Apart from the contact information, this is probably as useful in England as in Wales. The advice appears useful and generally sound, though there are some lapses, for examplethat (like English Heritage) Cadw appears to be under the impression that local authorities are full of skilled conservation officers with the time to help you with all your buildings issues, which is certainly not the case in practice.
NEW ENGLISH HERITAGE FLOODING GUIDANCE (9 JUNE 2010)
English Heritage has updated its advice on Flooding and historic buildings, available from the www.helm.org.uk website (under Guidance library), following the 2007 and subsequent floods. This (apart from English Heritage's sadly unrealistic and thus irritating assumption that everyone has easy access to a skilled local authority Conservation Officer) gives helpful advice on assessing risk, prevention, dealing with a flood, and repairing afterwards.
CLA CALLS FOR CHANGES TO THE DRAFT PLANNING POLICY STATEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE (3 JUNE 2010)
The CLA response to the new draft PPS Planning for a Low Carbon Future sets out a number of very important concerns. The draft PPS takes a one-dimensional approach to climate change mitigation, based largely on energy performance, which gives the wrong results because it ignores other vital factors like the carbon impacts of building materials and lifespan. A building built of high-carbon concrete, glass, and plastics which has to be bulldozed into landfull and rebuilt when after 30-40 years its components have failed is not 'green', whatever the PPS (and building regulations) say.The response also stressesthe potential dangers the draft PPS poses to traditionally-constructed and heritage buildings.
**NEW GUIDANCE NOTE ON GETTING HERITAGE AND PLANNING CONSENTS IN ENGLAND UNDER THE NEW PPS5 REGIME (30 MAY 2010)
CLA Heritage Adviser Jonathan Thompson has written a CLA member Guidance Note Getting heritage and planning consents under the new PPS5, which explains the new system in nine pages. This also particularly asks for feedback from members on problems with the new system: the CLA has secured a review of the new PPS5 Practice Guide in early 2011, but it will be more difficult to secure improvements if we do not have evidence of the problems - please email email@example.com.
CLA CRITICISES LATEST CONSULTATION ON ENERGY PERFORMANCE CERTIFICATES (25 MAY 2010)
The Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) you are forced to have if you sell or let any property produce fundamentally incorrect results and recommendations for traditionally-constructed buildings, because the theoretical methodologies on which they are based assume modern construction methods. This is a danger to heritage and its owners, because it devalues heritage buildings and encourages physically damaging work. In addition, research suggests that few people are actually acting on EPCs (for heritage buildings or otherwise). This consultation is suggesting further extensions of EPCs, for example to holiday cottages. The CLA response points out that the proposals do little to address these fundamental problems. We have also persuaded a number of heritage bodies to respond in similar terms.
***NEW HERITAGE PLANNING POLICY STATEMENT PPS 5 PUBLISHED (23 MARCH 2010)***
The new PPS5 and its Practice Guide (see many references below) have now been published, immediately replacing the old heritage planning policy guidance PPG15 and PPG16 which are CANCELLED with immediate effect.
The new PPS 5 is a real step forward for heritage. The CLA and otherslobbied hard to get it, and it improves substantially on the previous policy in PPG15 and 16, in a number of ways which we strongly advocated both at the drafting stage and at many points subsequently. It better acknowledges the need for viability and for heritage to change. There is an emphasis on proportionality, which was almostignored in the PPGs. PPS 5'ssignificance-based approachmakes it easier to argue for sympathetic change, especially to things of lesser significance, in place of the old approach which all too often seemed to say "you can't change anything, important or not- it's all part of the history of the building". Former policy tended to freeze heritage by making good changes too difficult or expensive to secure; that is bad not only for owners and managers of heritage, but also for heritage itself, which will inevitably decay if it is too difficult to keep it up to date and put it to sympathetic and viable uses.
The new PPS is inevitably not perfect. Its Practice Guide needs further development, and the CLA has persuaded CLG to review it after a year (feedback on the problems members encounter would be extremely helpful - please email firstname.lastname@example.org).
More importantly,no new PPS could deal with the biggest problem, that the local planning authorities which take most of the decisions are simply not resourced to deal with the workload which current heritage legislation imposes. The PPS is not quite therefore the dawn of a new age, but it is a substantial step forward.
There are articles on the new PPS5 in the CLAMay 2010 Land & Business(page 27), and CLA Heritage Adviser Jonathan Thompson has written a member Guidance Note Getting heritage and planning consents under the new PPS5.
GOVERNMENT VISION STATEMENT ON THE HISTORIC ENVIRONMENT PUBLISHED (23 MARCH 2010)
The Government has just published its long-awaitedVision Statement on the Historic Environment. It is unimpressive that it has taken the Government 13 years to produce it, and such statements inevitably include a large helping of motherhood and apple pie. But having said this the document itself is commendable: it does express realenthusiasm for heritage, and also picks up most of the key points in the CLA's 2009 lobbying paper, stressing (see Strategic Aim 2) that well-managed change to heritageis essential if it is to survive in the long term, and also(in contrast for example to equivalent Natural England documents!) that mostheritage does not belong to government.
SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENTS TO THE PLANNING APPLICATION SYSTEM TOOK EFFECT ON 6 APRIL 2010 (22 MARCH 2010)
Following years of CLA lobbying, the Killian Pretty Review, and consultations last year (see below, 27 October 2009), the Government has just announced significant improvements to the planning application system, which took effect on 6 April.
The most important is probablyGuidance on Information Requirements and Validation and Development Management Policy Annexe, which set out how applications should be handled and in particular what information can be demanded from applicants. These should make it much more difficult for local planning authorities (LPAs) to force applicantsto abandon proposals by demandinglarge amounts of expensive supportingmaterial, a common practice now, especially for heritage applications. Often this just reflects the fact that the LPA does not have the resources to handle its potential application workload. For example the old guidance The Validation of Planning Applications had only a couple of mentions of proportionality, but the new guidance mentions it 24 times. The new guidance is not perfect, and it lacks any watertight sanction if LPAs act unreasonably, but the wording makes it easier to apply moral pressure to resolve this longstanding and frequent problem ("LPAs and applicants should take a proportionate approach to information in support of applications, and applicants should only be asked to provide...supporting information that is relevant, necessary, and material to the application"). There are numerous other changes, including additional permitted development rights for non-residential development. Design & Access Statements will no longer be required for many applications (though nearly all heritage applications will still require them), and again they should be proportionate (eg see Guidance 6.6, "for some only a page may be needed").
REFORM OF THE PLANNING SYSTEM, INCLUDING FOR TEMPORARY DEVELOPMENT (19 MARCH 2010)
As part of the Killian Pretty reform process (see many references below), the Government has been consulting on a new Development Management Planning Policy Statement, encouraging local authorities to take a more positive and co-operative 'development management' approach to the planning and development process in place of the old 'development control' approach. The CLA response welcomes this in general terms. But it calls for a much more effective pre-application advice system; currently for example it is common for applicants to be quoted £500 for a meeting with a junior officer who refuses to say anything meaningful, or whose advice is completely ignored by the authority at a later stage. We also call for reasoned statements to be provided when applications are refused, in place of vague waffle like "incompatible with Policy H16" or "would damage local amenity" which may give the applicant (or anyone else) little idea of why an application has been refused, or how or whether it could be made acceptable. We have made a similar point in a separate consultation response about formal consultees like English Heritage or the Garden History Society, who, if their advice on a proposal is not supportive, do need to explain why.
The CLA response also calls for specific national planning policy on temporary development. In the absence of any such national policy, a culture has grown up in local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate which sees almost all temporary development(like marquees to raise income to maintain heritage) as unacceptable by definition, and permission is hardly ever granted. Only new national policy can begin to level the playing field, though much more lobbying will be required if we are to achieve this.
THE PENFOLD REVIEW OF NON-PLANNING CONSENTS - INTERIM REPORT PUBLISHED (18 MARCH 2010)
The 2008-09 Killian Pretty Review (see various references below) looked in detail at the planning consent process, and came up with sensible and balanced recommendations for improvements to make it more efficient and proportionate, many of which are being implemented. The Penfold Review is looking similarly at the other, non-planning, consents and other problems faced by those carrying out development, like listed building consent, footpath diversion, and natural environment consents (bats, owls, newts, etc). The CLA has had several meetings with the Penfold Review team, including a meeting on heritage, andis represented on its Soundng Board. The CLA response suggested, among other things,the need for a fundamental review of heritage protection (see pp6-12). The Review has just published its Interim Report, which confirms that there are widespread problems with non-planning consents, and begins to identify solutions.
CAMPAIGN FOR REDUCED-RATE VAT ON DOMESTIC BUILDING WORK (23 FEBRUARY 2010)
After successful lobbying by the CLA and ELO and the Cut-the-VAT Coalition of which we are a member, it has been possible since March 2009 (see below, "First stage victory on reducedVAT rates", 10 March 2009) for EU member states to apply a reduced 5 per cent VAT rate to work to domestic buildings (not just domestic heritage), a change which would be of great benefit to CLA members as well as the hard-hit construction industry. Since then we have been lobbying for the UK Government to apply this in the UK. A key part of the argument has been that, in addition to positive economic and environmental consequences, the VAT cut would be tax-revenue-neutral or even positive for Government, by generating more work and thus more VAT, taking builders off the dole, and bringing contractors into the formal (ie taxed) economy. The Coalition commissioned an Experian report, launched today at the House of Commons. While suggesting billions of pounds of economic benefit, this does also suggest that the change would be tax-revenue negative, with an upfront net tax revenue loss of £100m or more a year. The CLA and other members of the Coalition have met the Treasury to discuss the report.
MEETING WITH SIMON THURLEY, ENGLISH HERITAGE CHIEF EXECUTIVE (8 FEBRUARY 2010)
CLA President William Worsley and Heritage Adviser Jonathan Thompson met Simon Thurley, English Heritage's Chief Executive, on2 February. Issues discussed included PPS15, the need to get English Heritage's sensible constructive conservation policy (see entries below) to work effectively on the ground and in EH guidance, and the extreme difficulty of getting planning permission for temporary structures like marquees anywhere near heritage. This followed a meeting in late 2009 with EH's new Chairman, Baroness Andrews.
NEW PPS4 ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ISSUED (7 JANUARY 2010)
In our plan-led planning system, government planning policy statements (PPSs) are often of great importance in determiningplanning decisionson the ground. The CLA, feeling that not enough weight was being given to economic factors in planning decisions, has lobbied successfully for a revision ofnational planning policyon economic development, and for this to mention historic buildings specifically. After a long gestation period thenewPPS4 has now been published. This includes specific encouragement to local authorities to encourage new uses for buildings, including historic buildings (see EC2.1i and EC12.1d). This is likely to be of real help to members seeking new uses for historic buildings.
LISTED BUILDING PROSECUTIONS (24 NOVEMBER 2009)
The Institute for Historic Building Conservation has just published data on prosecutions for breaches of listed building law on its website (the list is not definitive because the data has been collected informally). Fines in the 146 cases listed go up to £200,000, though most are in the £1,000 to £5,000 range. There are a handful of cases of imprisonment, for using explosives,fraud, orthefts of fireplaces.
POTENTIAL CLA VICTORIES: STREAMLINING INFORMATION REQUIREMENTS FOR PLANNING APPLICATIONS AND NEW PERMITTED DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS (27 OCTOBER 2009)
The CLA has lobbied for years for the information required with planning applications to be proportionate. Local authorities do need enough information to be able to take decisions, butvery often ask for a 'shopping list' of often irrelevant or disproportionate surveys and reports before they will validate, or decide, a planning application. This is often used by under-resourced local authorities to persuade applicants to withdraw,so as to reduce their workloads.This problem afflicts a high proportion of CLA members,and often affects heritage-related applications. CLA lobbying of the Better Regulation Executive, among other things, persuaded the Government to set up the 2008 Killian Pretty Review into the planning application process, which in turn recommended (with other improvements) a new policy on information requirements. This was published for consultation as Streamlining information requirements in July. If it works, it should make the process much more proportionate, and save CLA members tens of millions of pounds a year of unjustified work. The CLA response is obviously strongly supportive, but draws attention to the need for more effective sanctions if local authorities ignore the new policy.
Following another Killian Pretty recommendation, afurther consultation Improving permitted development proposes new permitted development rights to allow extensions to many kinds of non-residential buildings (and for new build, in some cases). The CLA response is again supportive, though more critical of related proposals to limit compensation rights when Article 4 Directions are imposed to withdraw permitted development rights across individual areas or sites.
WALES: CADW'S DRAFT CONSERVATION PRINCIPLES (30 OCTOBER 2009)
The CLA had a constructive meeting with Marilyn Lewis, Cadw's chief executive, in mid-November.
Cadw published its Conservation Principles in July as a draft for consultation. This should be a vital document for CLA members, setting out the criteria which should determine whether owners should get consent to alter heritage. Its Foreword is generally good, stressing both the importance of the historic environment and economic reality and the need for heritage to be sustainable: "investment in [it] needs to bring social and economic benefits". This with the Strategic Statement (see below) at least gives Cadw the beginnings of a policy of Constructive Conservation, a significant step forward.
In contrast, however, the bulk ofthe document is just a shortened rehash of English Heritage's appalling document of the same name (see below, extensively), full of impenetrable verbiage about 'significant places' and 'values', misunderstood (unsurprisingly) within EH, and ignored by almost everybody outside EH. The CLA response points out the opportunity for Cadw to do much better in Wales.
NEW DRAFT HERITAGE PLANNING POLICY STATEMENT FOR ENGLAND (PPS15) (16 OCTOBER 2009)
The Government published in July as a draft for consultation the long-awaited new draft PPS15national planning policy statement for heritage, which will replace the current PPG15 (historic buildings) and PPG16 (archaeology). This is a very important document for CLA members because, in our plan-led and policy-led planning system, it heavily influences both the local plan process and most planning and heritage consent decisions on the ground. The new PPS15 is intended to be in force for 20 years or more (the current PPGs date back to the early 1990s). Because of its importance, the CLA has been actively seeking to influence its content.
The new draft PPS appeared to be potentially a considerable improvement on the current PPGs, in a number of ways strongly argued for by the CLA. It acknowledged more specifically the need for heritage to change, and formalised the 'significance-based' approach, which makes it easier to argue for change, especially to things of lesser significance, rather than the old'rules-based' approaches ("you can't touch anything - it's all part of the history of the building") and the prescriptive prohibitions of many things at the back of PPG15. There was however still not nearly enough stress on proportionality (for example the PPS as drafted appeared to require a heritage statement to be attached to any planning application for any building in England). The CLA met English Heritage's Legal Director and Policy Director to discuss detailed issues.
Public reaction to the draft was polarised. Articles in journals like Building Design and Planning saw the PPS as extending unjustified red tape to every building in England. This is probably - provided the final wording is proportionate and clear - wrong. But many in the heritage sector have seen it as 'a developers' charter' which destroys heritage protection. The reasoning behind this seemed to be primarily that long-familiar words in PPG15 have gone, that the PPS's failure to mention Grade II buildings specifically must mean that they are all available fordemolition, and that the ability in PPS15 for developers to argue that other public benefits can be set against any heritage disbenefits was'new', when in fact it is not only explicit in PPG15 and PPG16 but the basis of the entire planning system.
Simultaneously English Heritage published an accompanying Planning Practice Guideto be used alongside the new PPS. The deadline for both consultations was 30 October.
BUILDING REGULATIONS, SUSTAINABILITY, AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN ENGLAND (2 OCTOBER 2009)
Historic buildings currently have a degree of exemption fromthe energy efficiency requirements in Part L of the Building Regulations. An 800-page consultation proposed replacing this exemption with 'special consideration' and guidance. The problem with this is that Building Inspectors in practice take very little notice of 'special consideration'. Owners of listed buildings are likely to becaught between building inspectors insisting on (for example) 'energy-efficient' but ugly, short-life, and expensive plastic windows, and planning officers refusing to grant listed building consent for them. Owners ofunlisted buildings will, in practice, either have to put in the plastic windows ormake no significant changes to their buildings at all. The CLA response argues for the exemption to be retained and extended. Our argument is based not primarily on the cultural importance of heritage, or on financial costs, but on the negative carbon impacts of replacing historic components (like windows) which are likely to have a long remaininglife with new components (like plastic windows) which will have high initial carbon impact and then a life of 15-20 years before they require replacement.
A separate consultation asked about possible changes to the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. The CLA response again argued for the continued ability of member states to exclude heritage.
THE CURTILAGE OF LISTED FARM BUILDINGS: THE TAUNTON CASE (2 OCTOBER 2009)
The listing of a building also lists most pre-1948 structures ancillary to it ('in its curtilage') even if they are not mentioned in the list description, and it was generally assumed that listing a farmhouse listed its pre-1948 farm buildings too. Butthe recently-reported Taunton case implies that other buildings are only listed if they are ancillary to the farmhouse as a dwelling (like stabling for the occupants' horses). Buildings which are (or were in 1948) in agricultural use are therefore less likely to be covered. In principle this 'delists' some thousands of buildings, though of course planning permission will usually be needed for external change or changes of use. This subject is covered in more detail in the November 2009 issue of Land & Business (published late October 2009).
BATS ETC: THE WOOLLEY CASE (2 OCTOBER 2009)
The July 2009 Woolley caseinterprets environment regulations as meaning that a local authority cannot grant planning permission until afterbat (etc) surveys have been completed and any mitigation etcworks assessed. It cannot just set bat conditions which can be sorted out later: all the work must be done in advance. The effect of this is that you can no longer apply for planning permission to see whether, in principle, you could get it, and then sort out natural environment issues later; you must spend thousands of pounds on surveys and reports first, all of which is potentially wasted if you then do not get planning permission. Worse, because it is impossible by definition to prove the absence of bats, it may even mean that in some circumstances planning permission is simply unobtainable.
WELSH HISTORIC ENVIRONMENT STRATEGIC STATEMENTS (2 SEPTEMBER 2009)
The Wales Assembly Government has produced a draft strategic statement saying how important it thinks heritage isand setting priorities for action. The latest draft of The Welsh Historic Environment: Towards a Strategic Statement incorporates many of the comments we made in the CLA response to the first draft. In particular it now recognises that "most heritage assets are privately owned by householders, farmers and other individuals, many of whom are committed to their care and stewardship for future generations"; and the billions of pounds spent on maintenance, mainly by the private sector; and acknowledges that expense, weather, and redundancyare the main threats to heritage (rather thanits owners, as the first draft seemed to imply). It also stresses the important role of heritage objectives in agri-environment schemes. Generally it is a sensible document which, with some real evidence, suggests that heritage both does and should play a vital role in regeneration and the environment as well as culture and tourism. The Minister for Heritage Alun Ffred Jones has now added his own Statement which concentrates on public involvement and on the importance of the heritage of Wales.
LOCAL LISTING OF HERITAGE (2 SEPTEMBER 2009)
English Heritage for the first time is to produce guidance on local listing. Local listing is not new, having been in use for many years, and is wholly different to statutory listing. It allows local authorities to select historic buildings and areas which are of historic interest but ofinsufficient significance tojustify 'national' listing and then, by listing them in the local plan, make that special interest a 'material consideration' if a planning application is made, so that planning permission for unsympathetic change is likely to be more difficult to get. Less than half of local authorities actually have such lists at the moment.
Local listing is a key part of the Government's agenda for heritage. In the CLA's view the new guidance should provide for consistent selection criteria and proper advance consultation of owners, and should make it wholly clear that local listing is not designed to prevent change, but simply to ensure that heritage value is considered, alongside all other relevant factors, in planning decisions. The CLA has met EH at an early pre-drafting stage and will comment on the guidance in draft before it is published in 2010.
EXPANSION OF THE "HERITAGE AT RISK" PROGRAMME IN ENGLAND: CONSERVATION AREAS (24 JUNE 2009)
From this year English Heritage's long-running annual Heritage at Risk initiative (see also 12 February 2009 below) includes Conservation Areas at risk, urban and rural, and parks and gardens. One-seventh of conservation areas were found to be 'at risk', though most of these are urban. Further information is at www.english-heritage.org.uk/conservationareas.
BATS AND HISTORIC BUILDINGS (5 JUNE 2009)
Few would wish to see bats become extinct, but they can sometimes be a major constraint on the repair and adaptation of buildings. A new report Bats in traditional buildings has been published by English Heritage, the National Trust, and Natural England to provide guidance and advice to architects, builders, bat consultants and owners on the practicalities of carrying out building work when bats or their roosts are present.
NEW GUIDANCE ON THATCHING STRAW IN ENGLAND (19 MAY 2009)
In the past thatching materials often varied according to cost and availability. But English Heritage has long been determined that long straw thatch, once a cheap farming by-product but now very specialist and expensive, must always be replaced with long straw, even after years of poor harvests. New guidance has now been issued by EH which sets out limited circumstances in which buildings thatched in long straw can be rethatched in (cheaper and much longer-lasting) water reed (though it adds that it wants any such buildings to be re-thatched in straw in due course when supplies permit!)
HERITAGE SKILLS AND ACCREDITATION (12 MAY 2009)
The National Heritage Training Group promotes training in heritage skills and is pursuing the accreditation of craftsmen and contractors (using "CSCS cards") in addition to the existing accreditation schemes for surveyors, architects, and engineers. Its website has a page for property owners with links to members of these accreditation schemes. These may be of use to members in finding consultants with conservation skills, though it is important to note that these schemes have inevitable limitations, by no means everyone with conservation skills is accredited, and of course you should not choose a consultant merely because they have accreditation.
CONSTRUCTIVE CONSERVATION IN ENGLAND (17 APRIL 2009)
If you are having difficulty getting planning or listed building consent for changes to heritage, the Constructive Conservation section of the English Heritage website may be useful. It sets out EH's commonsense and pragmatic 'Constructive Conservation' policy, of "not preventing change but helping everyone to manage it", and there is a useful interview with Steve Bee, EH's Director of Planning and Development. Constructive Conservation of course does not give a green light to every ill-considered change, but if you are faced with an inflexible, over-my-dead-body response from a local authority or EH to a properly-considered proposal, the policy can be quoted in planning application or appealstatements and could positively affect the outcome. EH moreover does sometimes follow this policy in its own advice and decision-taking, though this largely concerns the small minority of buildings which are listed Grades I and II*.
Unfortunately, however, though Constructive Conservation has been EH policy for several years, in practice it sometimes seems to be little more than some brief soundbites only there to be quoted at anyone who accuses EH of being inflexible. EH's Conservation Principles (2008; see below, 24 April 2008), which was supposed to articulate Constructive Conservation, is written in unintelligible academic conservation jargon. Moreover, EH seldom carries the Constructive Conservation policy properly into its own published policy and guidance, which is important because most heritage decisions are taken by local authorities, and EH guidance, good or bad, is a material consideration in their decision taking. EH's reluctance to reflect Constructive Conservation in its guidance seems to be partly a reluctance to offend the small minority who oppose the policy because they still believe in 'preservation in aspic', and partly a view that any EH guidance which suggested that appropriate change is acceptable would somehow 'fetter the discretion of local authorities' (which it does not, because they are free to set aside EH guidance where there is a material reason to do so).And, crucially,the absence of guidance makes it very hard for local authority staff to take decisions at all, given that those doing so are, in the real world, mostly not conservation experts but general development control staff who (understandably) need help because they have little heritage knowledge.
FIRST-STAGE VICTORY ON REDUCED VAT RATES (10 MARCH 2009)
After extensive lobbying by the CLA and others, Ecofin, the meeting of EU finance ministers, decided on 10 March that EU member statesare permitted to cut VAT rates, potentially to 5%, on 'the renovation and repair of private dwellings' (and on certain other services). This would clearly be of considerable benefit to almost all CLA members.
This means that the UK Government is now able, if it chooses,to apply a 5% rate to almost all work to domestic buildings, including domestic heritage. This is only a power:the Government is not obliged to use it, and has been resistant to previous, albeit more narrowly-focused, lobbying forreduced-rate VAT. The next stage of the campaign therefore is to persuade the Government to do this. The CLA cannot achieve this alone, and as in the previous stage we will be working with other organisations, particularly the Cut-the-VAT Coalition, a group of more than 20 UK organisations which also includes the Federation of Master Builders, RICS, RIBA, Empty Homes Agency, Countryside Alliance, National Trust, and HHA.The arguments will be based particularly on the creation and retention of jobs in the construction industry, on the knock-on effects of this on tax revenue and benefit expenditure, and on this increased work and a decline in the black economy leading to a net increase rather than a fall in VAT revenue. The Financial Times published our joint letter on this on Budget Day 2009, 'Restore our heritage and cut the tax on repairing old dwellings', but reduced-rate VAT has not been implemented in the Budget.
The European Commission had proposed, after lobbying from the CLA and others, permanently reduced VAT rates on work to'cultural heritage' and parks and gardens as well. The dropping of these at the Ecofin meeting is disappointing but not disastrous, because of course a high proportion of heritage is private dwellings, and much of the rest is occupied by companies or other bodies which can reclaim VAT.
ENGLISH HERITAGE CHARTER ON PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT PUBLISHED (10 MARCH 2009)
This brief Charter is important because governs how EH manages its role in the development consent process. Our main concern was that it contained what could be considered to be a 'checklist' of items applicants should provide with planning and listed building consent applications, and that this mightwell increase the growingtendency for them to be asked by EH and/or local planning authorities for unnecessarily detailed or in some cases irrelevant archaeological surveys, landscape statements, and so on (and on). The CLA response asked that such information should be sought only when and insofar that it is relevant and justifiable, and the final documentdoes take on board many of these concerns.
THE FUTURE DESIGNATION OF WORLD HERITAGE SITES (24 FEBRUARY 2009)
In the last 10-15 years one or two new WHSs a year have been designated in the UK. In future, because developed nations are seen as having more than their 'fair' share of WHSs, fewer are likely to be designated. A December 2008 DCMS consultation paper suggested ways of managing future nominations. Accompanying research based on existing WHSs showed that WHS designation does not automatically bring benefits which outweigh its costs. The CLA's response suggested that sites should only be considered where there was evidence that designation would lead to substantive public benefit, and also stressed the need for proportionality and economic reality in the management of WHSs.
'NIGHTHAWKING' REPORT (23 FEBRUARY 2009)
'Nighthawking' is the theft of archaeological remains by thieves using metal detectors without the permission of the landowner. A new report just launched examines the problem and makes recommendations.
EXPANSION OF THE “HERITAGE AT RISK” PROGRAMME IN ENGLAND: ARCHAEOLOGY AND HISTORIC PARKS AND GARDENS (12 FEBRUARY 2009)
English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk programme has been running for many years, identifying Grade I and II* listed buildings at risk in an annual register, which changes a bit from year to year as some are restored but others come onto the list. In 2008 this was expanded to include scheduled monuments at risk, and renamed Heritage at Risk (and in future it may cover Conservation Areas at risk, and perhaps ultimately Grade II listed buildings).
This year English Heritage has embarked on a new project "to contact all owners of scheduled monuments and historic landscapes at risk to find out how they can best help them". Members inEngland may well find that they are approached about landscapes or monuments in their hands. Details are available at www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.20427.The focus of this is to be on updating and checking the Heritage at Risk register, and then on helping owners rather than on criticising or 'shaming' them. The CLA of course does not want to see heritage at risk any more than anyone else, and with the NFU and the Historic Houses Association we support the initiative on this basis. But we always point out that looking after heritage is very expensive, and thus especially difficult where, as is often the case, it does not produce an income to cover its maintenance costs, and that putting things on registers may be of limited benefit if this does not come with real practical help. We also focus on the reasons why heritage is at risk, which include not only high repair costs but also for example the undermining of archaeology by badgers,redundancy (tens of thousands of listed farm buildings are redundant), and the difficulty of getting consent for new viable uses.
THE HERITAGE PROTECTION REVIEW AND THE HERITAGE PROTECTION BILL (3 DECEMBER 2008)
As we had expected, the Heritage Protection Bill was one of several Bills left out of the Queen's Speech. But the Government has given strong undertakings on its continued commitment to the Heritage Protection Review, much of which can be implemented without legislation, and in particular to publish a draft of the promised new Planning Policy Statement (PPS) for heritage before Easter 2009 (note at 23 April 2009: though no announcement hasbeen made, this is apparently now delayed until the summer).
The CLA will continue to lobby for a Bill, because important gains for members like formal rights of consultation and appeal depend on this. But in fact other parts of the Heritage Protection Review are more important than the Bill. A good new heritage PPS would have a very beneficial effect on actual planning and consent decisions on the ground, as would new English Heritage guidance and training in many areas, provided it is based on English Heritage’s sensible and pragmatic policy of “Constructive Conservation”, in which everyone works together to give heritage a viable future. We have welcomed the explicit commitments made by DCMS and English Heritage to press ahead with all of these, and are looking to work closely with English Heritage and others, and will keep a careful eye on progress and on detail, reporting developments on this page.
POTENTIAL SIMPLIFICATION OF THE PLANNING APPLICATION PROCESS: THE KILLIAN PRETTY REPORT (25 NOVEMBER 2008)
The report of the Killian Pretty Review has just been published. The Review, triggered by much lobbying from the CLA and others over several years, especially work we did on planning and heritage with the Better Regulation Executive, looked at ways of simplifying the planning application process. The final report confirms that "the system isn't working well enough", which mirrors CLA findings and member complaints, and makes 17 recommendations, aimed at taking many applications out of the planning system entirely, and at simplifying those which remain. Specific heritage controls unfortunately were outside the Review's terms of reference,but implementation of its findings would simplify heritage-related planning applications. Government ministers confirmed their intention to implement the key recommendations. Some probably require primary legislation;it is obviously too late to feed these into the Planning Bill,which has just received Royal Assent, so this may take time.
NEW ENGLISH HERITAGE GUIDANCE ON EU LEADER PROJECTS (30 OCTOBER 2008)
LEADER is one of the key ways of delivering EU Rural Development funding. It funds community-led rural regeneration and conservation projects, so it cannot be used to fix your private house or barn, but has been used for example in the physical conservation and interpretation of Northumbrian hill-forts, conservation and land management advice for landowners in the Weald of Kent, the repair of a windmill, and skills training in Norfolk. English Heritage has produced new guidance on LEADER projects and how they work, with examples.
VICTORY ON "LISTED" BUILDINGS: GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO SELECT COMMITTEE REPORT (21 OCTOBER 2008)
The Government's response to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee's rather critical report on the draft Heritage Protection Bill (see 31 July and 16 June below) was published on 21 October. Following lobbying by the CLA and others, it says that the Government is abandoning the very confusing change of terminology in the Bill from the long-familiar "Listed Building" to "Registered Heritage Structure". This is extremely welcome. Otherwise, however, the response generally rejects proposed changes - both good and bad - to the Bill. The Government has also failed to accept that there is a crisis in local authority conservation provision, still continuing to claim - despite a huge amount of evidence over many years - that reliable figures are not available.
EVEN MORE DISCOURAGING ENGLISH HERITAGE GUIDANCE ON ENABLING DEVELOPMENT (1 OCTOBER 2008)
Enabling development is development which is contrary to normal planning policy but put forward as a way of saving a threatened heritage asset. English Heritage has now published the latest version of its guidance on enabling development. Shorn of the photographs and case studies in the previous version, it now looks long and theoretical (and a change in the title from 'heritage assets' to 'significant places' is symptomatic of a growing English Heritage policy of writing its 'high-level' policy documents as if from an international ivory tower).
Much more importantly, even more than the previous version it sets so many hurdles in the way of enabling development that it is hard to see that an honest owner or developer would ever dare to embark on it. The purpose seems to be not to protect buildings at risk - for which enabling development can, in a minority of carefully-chosen cases, be the solution - but to protect English Heritage from criticism. Even in this limited aim it may fail: the unscrupulous will find ways through, as they always have, building estates of 'executive homes' while failing to repair the heritage asset, and buildings will crumble as they are sold on from one speculator to another, priced out of the reach of genuine repairing purchasers, but in future there may be few successful cases to set against the failures. As a further example, the guidance apparently offers an opening for owners of 'historic entities' (cases where there is a public interest in keeping houses or land or other assets together in their current ownership), but these seem to be so rigidly defined - much more so even than in tax law - that it is hard to think of relevant cases which could qualify. We pointed all this out in advance, but our detailed critique of the draft seems to have been largely ignored.
In general terms, our advice to members now would have to be not even to consider embarking on enabling development unless both the local authority and English Heritage are in favour, and there is support (rather than opposition) from the local community, and even then this is a route fraught with difficulties and expense and only for the brave and determined.
THATCHING STRAW (26 SEPTEMBER 2008)
There has been a long-running and sometimes acrimonious debate between English Heritage and local planning authorities, on the one hand, which usually insist on exact like-for-like replacement of thatch on listed buildings, and also specifically on the use of long straw, and on the other many thatchers, who feel that thatching is a craft which has always moved on and that tight rules are just freezing the thatching practices of the 1980s. A crucial issue for owners is that long straw costs far more than alternatives, and usually has a much shorter life, so that the overall cost can be 5-10 times higher. A further problem is a now-chronic shortage of long straw: once a by-product of almost every harvest, this is now a very specialist product,less and less is planted, and successive harvests fail.
The official English Heritage view seems to be that "your roof can just rot away until long straw is available, and the cost is your problem not ours'. The National Society of Master Thatchers has produced a £10 guidance book (see its website). It would be useful to have CLA member feedback on this; please email email@example.com.
VAT ON REPLACING uPVC WINDOWS IN LISTED BUILDINGS (22 SEPTEMBER 2008)
Until now, replacing uPVC (plastic-framed) windows in listed buildings with appropriate timber windows was not generally accepted by HMRC as an 'alteration' for VAT purposes, so you paid VAT in full on the cost. In general, only changes which altered the size of the window opening were accepted as 'alterations' qualifying for zero-rating.
VAT Notice 708 now says explicitly that "replacement of uPVC double glazing with copies of original wooden windows for aesthetic reasons" is an alteration, so that this will be zero-rated (provided, as always with alterations, you have obtained listed building consent in advance). This may, though as so often this is unclear, also apply to most replacement windows more in keeping with the building. Moreover, if you have done this in the last three years, you can go back to the supplier and ask for a refund.
THE FUTURE PROTECTION OF WORLD HERITAGE SITES (2 SEPTEMBER 2008)
The Department for Communities and Local Government in April launched a consultation on the future protection of World Heritage Sites (of which there are now 17 in the UK, many rural, including for example Stonehenge, the Ironbridge Gorge, and the 'Jurassic Coast' in Dorset and Devon). The proposals include new English Heritage guidance, a proposal to make WHSs Article 1(5) Land, ie curtailing some permitted development rights as in National Parks (this has been implemented from 1 October 2008), and the creation of 'buffer zones' around WHSs "where appropriate". In general the guidance is reasonably sensible and proportionate: it refutes the absurd but often-quoted idea that WHSs "have no protection", and does not add a whole raft of new regulation. Our response generally supports the proposals, with some reservations.
ENGLISH HERITAGE ENERGY EFFICIENCY WEBSITE (2 SEPTEMBER 2008)
English Heritage has formally launched its climate change and energy efficiency website www.climatechangeandyourhome.org.uk, designed primarily for owners of traditionally-built houses. This is still a work in progress and much of the information is fairly basic, but there are (under Further Information) links to relevant publications, for example the guide Energy Conservation in Traditional Buildings. The information can (to some extent) be customised via the home page, so that it is relevant to the date and type of your house. EH intend to develop the site further over time, especially as results become available from ongoing research projects.
NEW GUIDANCE TO FIRE AUTHORITIES ON HERITAGE (28 AUGUST 2008)
CLG has issued new guidance to fire authorities on the protection of heritage. While saving life obviously remains the highest priority, it stresses the need for the Fire & Rescue Service to protect buildings and contents from fire and water damage, and to liaise with owners. This may be helpful in discussions with the F&RS.
VICTORY ON NEW PLANNING POLICY STATEMENT FOR HERITAGE (28 AUGUST 2008)
The Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) has, after lengthy lobbying by the CLA and others, now agreed to produce a new Planning Policy Statement (PPS) for heritage, to replace the current PPG15 and PPG16. PPSs are highly significant because they set a national planning framework, substantially determine regional and local planning policies, and often affect actual planning and heritage decisions on the ground. The CLA is involved in a stakeholder group influencing the initial draft. The new PPS is due to go out to public consultation before Easter 2009.
CLA RESPONSE TO CONSERVATION AREAS CONSULTATION (1 AUGUST 2008)
The Government in a consultation has proposed major changes to the Conservation Area regime, in new clauses added to the draft Heritage Protection Bill. Some, like the need for consultation before Conservation Areas are designated, and the abolition of the separate Conservation Area Consent, are welcome. We also welcome in principle the reversal of the 1997 Shimizu case (which potentially made it possible to demolish important parts of buildings without consent), but our response points out that as drafted the new clauses would require planning permission for almost any demolition, even of something of no importance, which would cause an explosion of often unjustifiable planning applications. The CLA response also expresses robust views on a new obligation for planning authorities to turn down almost any planning application in a Conservation Area unless the applicant can prove that it "enhances" the area, an attempt to improve Conservation Areas which in our view may actually have the opposite effect.
CRITICAL SELECT COMMITTEE REPORT ON THE DRAFT HERITAGE PROTECTION BILL (31 JULY 2008)
The House of Commons Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, which is scrutinising the draft Heritage Protection Bill (see below), today published its Report. Like the CLA, it is particularly critical of the Government's claims ("astonishing") that all is well in the heritage consent system. It quotes the CLA evidence on this and other issues. The Select Committee is also unhappy that many elements of the Bill and the rest of the new system have not yet been drafted for consultation.
VICTORY ON LOCAL MEMBER REVIEW BODIES (30 JULY 2008)
We were very concerned by the proposals in both the Planning Bill and the Heritage Protection Bill to remove the right of appeal for some or most planning and listed building applications, replacing this with review by a 'Local Member Review Body' which would have been advised by the same officers who took the original decision, so that judge, jury, and appeal court would have been more or less the same thing. After sustained lobbying by the RTPI, CLA and others, the Government has now withdrawn this proposal.
CLA SELECT COMMITTEE EVIDENCE ON THE DRAFT HERITAGE PROTECTION BILL (16 JUNE 2008)
The CLA has submitted evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee for Culture Media and Sport, which in July 2008 is scrutinising the draft Heritage Protection Bill (see 2 April below) . We welcomed the Bill in principle, but pointed out that it has little chance of improving the heritage protection system on the ground unless either £50m-£100m a year of new resources are provided - which of course will not happen - or significant changes are made to the proposals so that the system can work better without a lot more money being spent.
FORTHCOMING ENGLISH HERITAGE GUIDANCE ON INSURANCE (21 MAY 2008)
English Heritage and the RICS are updating their joint guidance on insuring historic buildings , which dates back to 1994. This is an important issue for heritage-owning members, and the CLA was among stakeholders invited to comment on a draft. Our response suggests a number of changes to the draft, including more detailed treatment of ways in which owners can minimise insurance costs. Note: As at January 2010, this guidance has still not appeared.
TIMES LETTER - FARM BUILDINGS UNDER THREAT (30 APRIL 2008)
A CLA letter in The Times today examines some of the solutions for redundant farm buildings. It followed up a previous letter from SAVE Britain's Heritage (which made valuable general points but concentrated on one specific case in which consent had been granted for demolition of a listed granary, controversial because experts disagreed on whether the building could have repaired without rebuilding it almost from scratch).
ENGLISH HERITAGE "CONSERVATION PRINCIPLES" LAUNCHED (24 APRIL 2008)
Conservation Principles is - in theory - a document of great importance, a statement of the fundamental principles to be used by English Heritage in all its advice and decision-taking, and above all it was supposed to be a statement of EH's very sensible policy of "Constructive Conservation". This - see EH's 2005-10 strategic plan - is about everyone working together to manage change of the historic environment in a pragmatic way, "a new philosophy of conservation to ensure sensible, consistent decisions".
Unfortunately, EH adopted a different agenda for Conservation Principles, academic and abstract. The CLA commented extensively on two unhappy drafts in 2006 and 2007. Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of EH, in his speech tonight launching the final version referred to our criticism having "made us [EH] stop and think again". Sadly, although they may have thought, they have not changed the document much, because the final version still has the abstract and meaningless language of "place" and "value" which make Conservation Principles all but unintelligible. It is highly unlikely to help people "to understand our decisions more easily", and still less likely to promulgate the "Constructive Conservation" philosophy in EH or in local authorities. It is a massive opportunity lost to move away from experts having sterile arguments about preserving historic buildings from change to a new world in which everyone co-operates in ensuring that historic buildings are respected and have a viable and healthy future.
The document is not entirely useless: it does defineconservation as "the management of change", not as preservation, and there are bits which members could quote in support of proposals, for example the conditions, set out on pages 58-60, under which alteration and new work "should normally be acceptable", though the points are so qualified that it it is hard to draw any real conclusion. Conservation Principles is therefore a major disappointment, certainly not the first thing most people will turn to for guidance. The CLA response to the 2007 draft is on this website.
MEETING WITH SIMON THURLEY (9 APRIL 2008)
CLA President Henry Aubrey-Fletcher and Heritage Adviser Jonathan Thompson on 9 April met Simon Thurley, English Heritage's Chief Executive. In many areas (especially rural policy) EH is doing a good job, and this was a generally friendly meeting, but we disagreed strongly on two important issues, the desirability of academic conservation jargon in EH's heritage guidance, and the indefensible absence of any anti-theft safeguards whatsoever in EH's online Heritage Gateway project.
HERITAGE PROTECTION BILL LAUNCHED (2 APRIL 2008)
The Heritage Protection Bill was launched today, as a draft for Parliamentary scrutiny. The final version is unlikely to be published before 2009.The English version can be seen here and the version for Wales here. The Bill'shistory goes back to 1999, when the then Minister of Culture invited the heritage sector to suggest legislative changes.Years of consultation produced several papers, most recently the Heritage White Paper on which we commented in 2007 (see below).
The Bill if passed will replace 100 years of incremental heritage legislation.The most obvious change is that buildings, archaeology, parks, gardens, battlefields, World Heritage Sites (and cars, aircraft, ships, and wrecks) will all be covered by a single new ‘Heritage Register’, and everything (including ‘listed building’) is given a different name. For the first time, owners (and a variety of others) must be consulted formally before heritage can be put on the Register, and will have statutory rights of appeal. For buildings and archaeology, a single new ‘Historic Asset Consent’ (HAC) will be required for changes which ‘affect their special interest’ (for archaeology, this may imply less bureaucracy than the current system, where even like-for-like repair needs formal written consent).HAC will however not be needed for parks, gardens, battlefields, or World Heritage Sites, which will still as now be controlled by the planning system.Under the Bill there will be greater delegation of decision-taking to local planning authorities (LPAs), at least in England.
Otherwise the Bill’s proposals are not very different to the current system.The Bill is not supposed to increase or decrease heritage protection, but detailed analysis suggeststhat in fact there will be substantial net increases in protection, or at least in bureaucracy.
The Bill looks ambitious.But, subject to a number of points of detail (some significant), the ‘new’ system bears a strong similarity to the existing system, and any reader of the Bill as drafted is unlikely to think the new system either ‘simple’, or ‘unified’. But it is probably, on balance and so far as we can tell at this stage, somewhat beneficial for heritage, and (because of the new consultation and appeal rights) for CLA members.
At a more fundamental level, however, the Bill may just rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic. The real problem with heritage protection is not inadequate law;it is the difficulties and costs owners face on the ground when they need consent to change historic buildings to make them viable and relevant in the future. Those problems in turn are largely the result of a crisis in conservation resourcing in the LPAs who actually take most of the decisions. This has a variety of dire consequences: regulators who are demotivated and overworked, and often not skilled or experienced enough to take the sometimes complex decisions to allow change which competent and sustainable heritage management requires; unnecessary costs and delays for owners; redundant buildings decaying because their owners think they cannot get consent to alter them;and (despite draconian penalties) an apparent epidemic of unauthorised work to listed buildings (because LPAs do not have resources to help or to enforce, and many owners are either ignorant of the law or, rationally but illegally – not CLA members of course – decide not to tangle with ‘heritage bureaucracy’). These are problems the Bill does little about and may even worsen, because it increases LPA workload by delegating more decisions to them.
MEETING WITH WELSH HERITAGE MINISTER (14 MARCH 2008)
CLA Wales Chairman Ross Murray, Director Julian Salmon, and CLA Heritage Adviser Jonathan Thompson met the Minister for Heritage, Rhodri Glyn Thomas, and Cadw on 13 March. This useful meeting discussed in particular Cadw grant schemes, which are to be extended to cover conversions of traditional farm buildingsand problems with the ability of the Tir Gofal agri-environment funding scheme to fund the repair of traditional farm buildings.
NEW APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR LISTED BUILDING AND PLANNING CONSENTS (14 MARCH 2008)
Listed building consent applications and most planning applications in England from 6 May 2008 must be made using a new Standard Application Form, available at www.planningportal.gov.uk. Although paper submission remains possible, electronic submission (ie over the internet) is encouraged. The application and new validation requirements are explained in Circular 02/2008.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND CLIMATE CHANGE (2 MARCH 2008)
English Heritage has done a lot of work on these subjects in the last year or more; the CLA has been involved in a by-invitation conference in late January and in commenting on draft guidance notes. Apart from a paper Climate Change and the Historic Envirionment, not much of this has been published so far, and publication is being delayed by potential Building Regulations changes, but new guidance when it appears will be at www.helm.org.uk/climatechange.
10 DECEMBER 2007: VICTORY ON ABOLITION OF EMPTY RATES RELIEF FOR LISTED BUILDINGS
A consultationlaunched in July proposed the 'modernisation' (ie abolition) of empty rate relief for all listed buildings liable for business rates. This followed the budget announcement (and an Act was rushed through Parliament before the summer) that empty business property will be liable to full rates after 3 months (6 months for industrial buildings), from April 2008. This is a tax increase disguised as an economic efficiency measure (rates were supposed to be a tax on occupation, not ownership, and CLA members may be puzzled by the assumption implicitin empty rating that owners are making lots of money by deliberately leaving buildings empty and must be taxed into letting them).
The consultation proposal would have meant that owners of listed buildings used for business purposes which become empty would be liable for full rates after (usually) 3 months. The consultation claimed that a blanket exemption for empty listed buildings only (given that empty unlisted buildings will be taxed) was 'hard to defend'. A particular CLA concern is that the proposal would strangle before birth the conversion of redundant agricultural buildings to business use, which both saves many historic buildings and creates jobs. These conversions are often high risk - who can be sure that market demand is there - and the knowledge that full business rates would be payable if tenants prove elusive implies that such buildings - the largest single category of listed buildings at risk - are likely to remain unconverted and crumbling. The CLA response attacked empty rating, attacked the 'evidence' used to justify rating listed buildings, and in particular argued for the continuation of full relief for listed buildings.
The Government has just announced that the relief for listed buildings will continue permanently. The Government could easily have forced this measure through, so this is a somewhat surprising victory which must have been won on the arguments.
5 NOVEMBER 2007: ENGLISH HERITAGE/CADW SCOPING STUDY ON THE ROLE OF HERITAGE IN NATIONAL PARKS
EH and Cadw are planning research on the importance of heritage in National Parks. The CLA response to the scoping study concentrates on the unsustainability of the current National Park management model, based as it is on prioritising access, preservation, and biodiversity,and not on economic or socialsustainability. Not only is this often not capable of preserving heritage, but the resulting lack of affordable housing and job opportunities are often breaking up traditional communities as well as threatening long-established farming activities. [5 November 2008: the Scoping Study is complete in draft but has not yet been published - see the CCRI website].
1 AUGUST 2007: HOME INFORMATION PACKS AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY
The much-criticised HIPs are in force. English Heritage have published three advice notes on HIPs, or more specifically on the Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) the packs need to include. EPCs are a crude tool designed for modern buildings, and in many cases they overestimate the energy needs of historic buildings and give them artificially poor ratings. EH (and the CLA) are concerned that this may encourage/force owners to carry out works which are unnecessary and/or actually damage the building. If you are thinking of selling and wondering whether you should (say) put in more insulation first, these advice notes may well be helpful.
14 JUNE 2007: ACCESS STATEMENTS IN WALES
Following the requirement for listed building and planning consent applications in England to be accompanied by Design and Access Statements from August 2006 (see below), most Welsh applications from 30 June 2007 need to be accompanied by Access Statements (this presumably does not imply that design is unimportant in Wales!) Guidance is to follow but in the meantime the draft guidance can be seen here.
14 JUNE 2007: THE SUCCESS OF FUNDING SCHEMES FOR TRADITIONAL AGRICULTURAL BUILDINGS
English Heritage and DEFRA have just published a second analysis of the success of the former agri-environment and rural development schemes in saving traditional farm buildings and walls from dereliction. The second report A study of the social and economic impacts and benefits of traditional farm building and drystone wall repairs in the Yorkshire Dales National Park follows an earlier report on the Lake District. Both show not only a major contribution to landscape value but also the creation of rural workspace and employment on a substantial scale, multiplier effects through the local economy, and the sustaining of craft skills. The reports are available from the HELM website , alongside further material on farm buildings, or hard copies can be obtained from 0870 333 1181 (both are available in summary and full versions).
Unfortunately, funding for the successor Environmental Stewardship and Rural Development schemes is far from assured, so this success story of rural regeneration may be stillborn. A Natural England/English Heritage report Tracking Change in the Quality of the English Landscape published on 14 June 2007 shows that historic walls and agricultural buildings are deteriorating in many parts of rural England.
5 JUNE 2007: CLA RESPONSE TO HERITAGE WHITE PAPER
The long-awaited Heritage White Paperfor England and Wales was launched on 8 March, after seven years of consultation and debate in which the CLA was heavily involved (and the CLA President, David Fursdon, sits on the Steering Committee).
The White Paper includes proposals to simplify the currently complex system of heritage protection, unifying the Listed Building and Scheduled Monument regimes and creating a single Register of most or all heritage assets, recognising the need for partnerships with owners, defining historic assets more accurately, and giving formal rights of consultation and appeal.
Inevitably we have concerns about details, the timescale, and especially the ongoing lack of resourcing in the local authorities which will actually operate the new system, but the White Paper is nonetheless a significant step forward. Our main concern is what is not in the White Paper: this is a DCMS (the Department for Culture Media and Sport) document, and without substantive involvement from CLG (the Department for Communities and Local Government) it seems unlikely to resolve the extensive problems in the heritage consent system and especially in local authorities, or therefore to be successfully implemented.
The CLA responseis on this website. New primary legislation is needed. Even assuming this happens, a new regime (a revision of the planning guidance PPG15/16 is also needed, but is not promised) is unlikely to be fully in place until 2011-12 at the earliest.
2 MARCH 2007: ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN HISTORIC BUILDINGS - FORTHCOMING ENGLISH HERITAGE GUIDANCE
The CLA has just met English Heritage at a senior level to discuss this in some detail. Many owners of historic buildings have difficulty in obtaining consent for energy efficiency measures, most of which are discouraged by the current guidance in PPG15 (see Frequently Asked Questions) and in the more recent Building Regulations and Historic Buildings. Encouraged by the CLA and many others, English Heritage is now drafting a family of 40-50 new advice notes, which should clarify these issues. These were supposed to be available in 2007, but seem to have been indefinitely delayed. In general the approach seems to be sensible and pragmatic, though there are some areas where we may well disagree wth them (they seem determined to continue the almost complete ban on double glazing, even where windows are beyond repair and have to be totally replaced). There will certainly be no carte blanche for every energy efficiency measure, but the new guidance seems to be founded on commonsense and particularly on economics. For example, they argue (this may need further testing, and might change) that solar panels at current costs do not make economic sense, so the question of putting them on historic buildings really doesn't arise (though if determined you may be allowed to put them in a garden rather than on a roof). Similarly they argue that double glazing of existing windows is hardly ever economically viable, but the new guidance is likely to be more encouraging of secondary glazing than the current guidance. The main message will be that the best place to start is usually with loft insulation and draughtproofing (£1,000 spent on these may well produce a higher return than £5,000 spent on double glazing), rather than with ground source heat pumps or microgeneration.
Our main concern is that the guidance should spell out, in order of effectiveness, and in straightforward and practical terms, what owners can actually do, and in ways which will then actually happen in practice, and not be blocked by blanket refusals of listed buildng consent. The initial indications are reasonably promising, but we will be seeing most of the guidance in draft form and commenting as necessary, and then providing links to it from this website as soon as it is published.
7 DECEMBER 2006: NEW GUIDANCE ON LISTED BUILDING PROSECUTIONS PUBLISHED
The Department for Communities and Local Government has published new Best Practice Guidance on Listed Building Prosecutions. This concentrates on prosecution rather than enforcement (for the distinction, see Frequently Asked Questions). Much work to listed buildings is done illegally, either deliberately or through ignorance of the law. The CLA does not in any way condone this, and clearly a law is pointless if those who breach it are never prosecuted. We are also of course very supportive of the protection of historic buildings in principle, provided this is achieved in an proportionate and efficient way. But the current consent system does not (see below, passim ) meet those requirements. Law-abiding owners find that it is in many cases preventing changes which ought to be allowed, and causing delays and increased costs. Others are increasingly ignoring it (and, in most cases, not being prosecuted). Change is needed, but any greater propensity to prosecute must be matched by a much more efficient and proportionate and co-operative consent system (again, see below), and prosecutions must happen only where there is a genuine and strong public interest case for prosecution, or the situation will get even worse.
5 DECEMBER 2006: BARKER REVIEW OF LAND-USE PLANNING FINAL REPORT PUBLISHED - HERITAGE RECOMMENDATIONS
The economist Kate Barker was asked by the Treasury at the end of 2005 to examine the scope to improve the efficiency of the planning system. We strongly believe that there is scope to improve the heritage protection and consent parts of that system, which too often obstruct the changes essential if historic buildings are to adapt and survive. The Barker Review Interim Report , published in the summer, acknowledged (section 4.25) that there is a problem.
Since 30 per cent of planning applications have heritage implications, we argued in furtherheritage-specific CLA evidence that the Review should make specific recommendations on heritage. The Review team listened to the CLA on this, as in many other policy areas, and Recommendation 4 (p160) in the Final Report , just published, emphasises "the critical importance of viability and proportionality, and...facilitating modernisation that does not damage the historic or architectural significance of buildings". Section 1.24 on p26 elaborates on this, using forms of words not far removed from those in the CLA evidence. Recommendation 20 (p167) suggests that more resources need to be put into local authority conservation services. The CLA was invited to make a response to the Final Report.
Other evidence submitted by the CLA can be found in the planning and policy sections of this website.
13 NOVEMBER 2006: GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO SELECT COMMITTEE
The Government's response to the Culture Media & Sport Select Committee's scathing report (see 20 July 2006 below) on Government heritage policy is much as the CLA predicted, rejecting or ignoring most of the Report's conclusions. For example, the Department for Culture Media & Sport says that English Heritage (despite six years of cuts which in particular have halved in real terms the already tiny grant support given to private-sector heritage) is funded at a "sufficient" level, and there is a strong implication ("will be given due consideration, alongside other priorities") that future changes will not be in a upward direction. More importantly, there is nothing which suggests that the crisis in local authority conservation provision (which makes it difficult to obtain consent to make necessary changes to listed buildings) will be tackled by the government in any meaningful way, other than by asking English Heritage, with its ever-falling budget, to do a job which should be being done by the Department for Communities & Local Government.
While heritage is supposed to be a DCMS responsibility, its interest in heritage issues to date has been, the Committee said, "cosmetic" and "unconvincing". Now that DCMS is so totally focused on delivering the 2012 Olympics, it seems unlikely that that will change for the better.
3 OCTOBER 2006: NEW ENGLISH HERITAGE GUIDANCE ON TRADITIONAL FARM BUILDINGS
English Heritage has just published Conversion of Traditional Farm Buildings: A guide to good practice, to add to the recent more general policy document Living Buildings in a Living Landscape, published in July. Both are available from English Heritage or from the HELM website . Although these are not quite as positively encouraging of carefully-considered change to redundant farm buildings as the CLA had been suggesting, they are much less restrictive than the previous policies. There is, sensibly, much help with understanding a building before deciding what to do with it, and many photographs and case studies. The same website also has further guidance on caring for historic buildings and archaeological remains. See below for the equivalent Welsh guidance.
10 AUGUST 2006: NEW CADW GUIDANCE ON TRADITIONAL FARM BUILDINGS
Cadw has issued useful well-illustrated new guidance Traditional Farm Buildings in Wales: Care and Conservation , and Caring for Historic Monuments on the Farm , to add to their existing publications on Coastal Heritage, Historic Landscapes, Lost Farmsteads, Small Rural Dwellings, and the more practical 2004 guidance on Converting Historic Farm Buildings. All can be obtained from Cadw or downloaded from the Cadw website (see publications >> conservation publications).
10 AUGUST 2006: DESIGN AND ACCESS STATEMENTS
All applications for listed building consent submitted after 10 August 2006 need to be accompanied by a Design & Access Statement, by virtue of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. There are, as with much regulation, some positive reasons for this, but it is also yet another layer of bureaucracy. To help to reduce the extra work involved, we have prepared a guidance note on this for members .
3 AUGUST 2006: "WHO PAYS FOR HERITAGE" - CLA MEMBER HERITAGE SURVEY REPORT PUBLISHED
The Survey found widespread dissatisfaction with the heritage consent system and the lack of grants. For private owners (who own the vast majority of heritage) the listing of buildings seems to be almost all downside. The roots of the problem seem to be partly philosophy - buildings being protected against all change, even where a viable use of the building is impossible without it - and partly the lack of resourcing of conservation in local authorities. This is the first-ever survey of the owners of listed buildings, but many of its findings are supported by other research, especially the Institute of Historic Building Conservation/English Heritage Local Authority Conservation Provision Survey of 2003.
The CLA Member Heritage Survey Report is available here, and there is an accompanying article on page 34 of the August 2006 issue of the CLA magazine Country Landowner & Rural Business.
20 JULY 2006: HOUSE OF COMMONS SELECT COMMITTEE FOR CULTURE MEDIA AND SPORT - HERITAGE INQUIRY REPORT PUBLISHED
This Committee (whose role is to examine the effectiveness of the Department of Culture, Media & Sport) spent eight months in 2005-06 on an Inquiry into heritage, largely in reaction to the slow pace of the Government's Heritage Protection Review, and in advance of the Heritage White Paper.
The CLA submitted written evidence to the Inquiry, and CLA President David Fursdon and Heritage Adviser Jonathan Thompson appeared as witnesses. The Committee reported on 20 July 2006. Its comprehensive Report:
Its main recommendations relevant to CLA members are:
This is an encouraging report which backs up what the CLA and others have been saying about the disparity between the detailed and confusing heritage protection regimes on the one hand and the lack of real Government support on the other. But it has to be said that most of the recommendations involve spending significant sums of money, and the battle for this, much of which needs to be conducted around the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, is only beginning.
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