Shakeup for UK heritage protection
Copyright: David Lawson – first published Property Week May 2007
Few could object to greater clarity and grass roots involvement. New laws are also several years away because of a crowded parliamentary agenda. But like any fundamental change, time bombs could be ticking below the surface and there are only a few weeks to dig them out. The government has set a deadline at the end of this month [MAY] for views on its White Paper Heritage Protection for the 21st Century. It would also be wrong to assume history plays a minor part in the bulk of development. Almost a third of planning applications involve heritage assets, according to Roger Mascall, of planning consultant DPP.
Most major developers are up to speed on planned changes, he says. ‘But a large portion of the sector still seeks to deal with such matters either late in the day or without the necessary specialist advice.’ Conservation areas alone cover vast swathes of towns and cities, often sweeping through the very areas where development pressure is most intense. Even minor alteration work can trigger months of negotiations and delay. In London, for instance, it is hard to find anywhere in the City or West End which does not require special approval. A new threat emerged recently when Land Securities’ planned WalkieTalkie tower was claimed to threaten the Tower of London World Heritage Site status.
Transfer of responsibility for listing to EH is a logical step and could speed up the system, says Mascall. The question is whether money will be available to do the job properly when public spending is being squeezed. This will only get worse in the run up to the general election. Greater public consultation will make the process more open but stretch the timescale, despite the fact that the reforms are meant to speed decision making. Interim protection orders to prevent owners sending in bulldozers overnight could mean a building is frozen while designation is considered then challenged by appeal. Mascall calls for close regulation to ensure the process is not used by objectors to frustrate development.
Certificates of Immunity (CoI) could offset uncertainty
by preventing last-minute listing. The White Paper says these could apply without
needing to make a planning application, which has led to absurdities in the
past such as applying for things such as flagpoles to qualify.Heritage
Partnership Agreements (HPA), providing early agreement about what may require
consent within a management framework for a building, could reduce the need
for large numbers of individual applications. Pioneering agreements under existing
legislation such as the listed Barbican complex in
Conservation areas and World Heritage Sites will be given extra protection,
leading to increased call-in of schemes for ministerial decisions [already seen
with Land Securities’ Walkie Talkie tower] and greater use of buffer zones to restrict
major development, says Mascall. While this will
be important for parts of the City of
Local Resources will be vital to underpin the revolution. Yet beyond the provision of new guidance and mechanisms for information dissemination, little is said about resources, says Mascall. Some local authorities don’t even have a conservation officer.
Designation based on national criteria for historic buildings and monuments
Merger of planning and conservation area consent
Unification under English Heritage and Cadw
Public register of historic sites and conservation areas
Protection for buildings while designation is considered
Partnership Agreements for large sites
Greater local demolition control