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Planning Policy Statement 5 (PPS5): Planning For The Historic Environment

Published by the Department of Communities and Local Government on 23 March 2010

(Note prepared by Tony Allen, DMH Stallard)

PPS5 replaces Planning Policy Guidance Note 15 and will apply to all planning decisions affecting “Heritage Assets” taken after 23 March 2010. English Heritage have published simultaneously their “Historic Environment Planning Practice Guide”.

Paragraph 1 of PPS5 says: “Guidance to help Practitioners implement this policy, including the legislative requirements that underpin it, is provided in Planning for the Historic Environment Practice Guide.” This note provides a preliminary assessment of and comments on PPS5 and will be revised as we gain experience of working with the new policy and guidance.

These documents have been published following an extensive consultation process on previous drafts, in response to which DMH Stallard with CgMs Limited submitted detailed comments. Underpinning the new policy guidance is the concept of “Heritage Asset”, which is defined: “A building, monument, site, place, area or landscape positively identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions. Heritage Assets are the valued components of the historic environment. They include Designated Heritage Assets (as defined in this PPS) and assets identified by the Local Planning Authority during the process of decision-making or through the plan-making process (includinglocal listing).”

This definition has been significantly revised from the draft, which had; “A building monument site or landscape of historic, archaeological or artistic interest whether designated or not. Heritage Assets are components of the historic environment.”

“Designated Heritage Asset” is then defined: “A World Heritage Site, Scheduled Monument, Listed Building, Protected Wreck Site, Registered Park and Garden, Registered Battlefield or Conservation Area designated as such under the relevant legislation.” The PPS5 thus retains an unspecified and random category of Heritage Assets, which may only be identified during the plan making process, or potentially, at any stage during the decision-making process on an individual Planning application.

The PPS does recognise the need to adapt Heritage Assets to improve their sustainability, and encourages Local Planning Authorities to take a pro-active stance in balancing sustainability improvements with Heritage Asset impact (Policies HE1.1 to HE1.3).

Policies HE2.1 to HE2.3 stress the importance for Local Planning Authorities of setting up and maintaining a publicly accessible record of their Historic Environment and Heritage Assets, which should include an assessment of the value of their Heritage Assets to their environment now and in the future. They are also required to predict “the likelihood that current unidentified Heritage Assets, particularly sites of historic and archaeological interest, will be discovered in the future.”

Policies HE3.1 to HE3.4 set out requirements for assessment of the Historic Environment and appropriate references in policy documents at all levels.

Policy HE4.1 encourages Local Planning Authorities to use Article 4 Directions where appropriate to protect the historic environment.

Policies HE6.1 to HE.6.3 set out detailed requirements for an assessment of the Heritage Assets affected by any proposed development and the impact of that development on them, and note: “Local Planning Authorities should not validate applications where the extent of the impact of the proposal on the significance of any Heritage Assets affected cannot adequately be understood from the application and supporting documents.” (In response to similar wording in the draft, our view was that this could be exploited by local groups or individuals to challenge the validation of an application where they identified Heritage Assets not previously identified by the Applicant or the Local Planning Authority).

Policies HE7.1 to HE7.7 provide guidance for the determination of Planning, Listed Building consent and Conservation Area Consent Applications, amongst others, where a Heritage Asset is involved. Note the wide definition of Heritage Asset, quoted above, which may encourage local amenity groups and interested individuals to argue the case for the local value of a building or site which is not otherwise protected and; HE7.4 “Local Planning Authorities should take into account: - the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of Heritage Assets…” (our underlining)

This wording is subtly different from that of Section 72(1) of the Listed Buildings Act 1990 as it applies to the exercise of planning functions in Conservation Areas – which includes the much discussed phrase: “…special attention shall be paid to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area” (our underlining). It will be a matter for discussion whether the PPS does create or cancreate a different test than that imposedby the Act. This new wording is then amplifiedby HE7.5: “Local Planning Authorities should take into account the desirability of new development making a positive contribution to the character and local distinctiveness of the Historic Environment.” (our underlining).

Policies HE8 and HE9 distinguish planning tests to be applied where an application affects a Heritage Asset or a Designated Heritage Asset. In respect of the former, Policy HE8.1 reads as follows: “The effect of an application on the significance of such a Heritage Asset or its setting is a material consideration in determining the application. When identifying such Heritage Assets during the planning process, a Local Planning Authority should be clear that the Asset meets the Heritage Asset criteria set out in Annex 2. Where a development proposal is subject to detailed pre-application discussions (including, where appropriate) archaeological evaluation (see HE6.1.2) with the Local Planning Authority, there is a general presumption that identification of any previously unidentified Heritage Assets will take place during this pre-application stage.

Otherwise the Local Planning Authority should assist Applicants in identifying such assets at the earliest opportunity.” Turning to Annex 2 for the Heritage Asset criteria one finds the following: “Heritage Asset. A building, monument, site, place, area or landscape positively identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions. Heritage assets are the valued components of the historic environment. They include designated heritage assets (as defined in this PPS) and assets identified by the local planning authority during the process of decision-making or through the plan-making process (including local listing).”

This test therefore relates to “significance” which is defined: “The value of a heritage asset to this and future generations because of its heritage interest. That interest may be archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic.”

It will be noted that:

i. Significance relies in part on the identification of “Heritage Interest”. This phrase is not defined but the PPS does define “Historic Interest” as follows: “An interest in past lives and events (including pre-historic). Heritage assets can illustrate or be associated with them. Heritage assets with historic interest not only provide a material record of our nation’s history, but can also provide an emotional meaning for communities derived from their collective experience of a place and can symbolise wider values such as faith and cultural identity.”

ii. The inclusion of reference to artistic interest in the definition of significance. This recurs through the PPS but does not reflect previous statutory definitions e.g. for listed buildings. Again the addition of this non-statutory criterion may prove controversial, both in terms oflegality and interpretation. The Policy criteria for designated heritage asset decisions (HE9.1 TO HE9.5) generally reflect established decision making principles, but this section then concludes with policy HE9.6:

“There are many heritage assets with archaeological interest that are not currently designated as scheduled monuments, but which are demonstrably of equivalent significance.These include heritage assets:

❚ That have yet to be formally assessed for designation
❚ That have been assessed as being designatable, but which the Secretary of State has decided not to designate; or
❚ That are incapable of designation for such heritage assets does not indicate lower significance and they should be considered subject to the policies in HE9.1 to HE9.4 and HE10.” The absence of designation for such heritage assets does not indicate lower significance and they should be considered subject to the policies in HE9.1 to HE9.4 and HE10”

Which seems designed to create ambiguity and uncertainty, given that it identifies the assets described in the three bullet points as appropriate for protection as designated heritage assets despite the fact that, by definition, they have no such statutory designation. Policies HE10 and HE11 deal with applications affecting the setting of a designated Heritage Asset and enabling development applications and again follow generally understood criteria. Policy HE12 sets out requirements for recording information relating to Heritage Assets.

This PPS, and the supporting English Heritage Guidance have been produced following a Government decision not to proceed with comprehensive revision of Heritage Asset legislation, and the abandonment of the Heritage Protection Bill. The PPS nevertheless introduces new concepts, definitions and tests into the process for designating and protecting Heritage Assets. In some cases these changes are of questionable legitimacy.

The PPS introduces a range of criteria, such as artistic merit, and value of a building to the local community (possibly irrespective of its architectural or historic value), which have no statutory basis. It also widens the scope for the definition of Heritage Assets in a manner which could introduce considerable uncertainty throughout the decision making process on planning and other applications. It is not clear why some of these changes have been made, or that they will contribute to better or quicker decision making. We would welcome comments from members, and will be happy to provide advice on applications and schemes which appear likely to be affected by this new Guidance.

DMH Stallard
24 March 2010
Tony Allen will be publishing a book on heritage law which will look at this subject in more detail later this year.