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Heritage and enhancement

By Dr Michael Dawson


IN recent years, several clients have argued that recording archaeology or an historic building should be considered, at least in part, to offset the effects of development, if not actually to enhance its effect.

However, the National Planning Policy Framework (para 199) quite specifically excludes ‘the ability to record evidence of our past…’. So what does enhance mean when the NPPF requires local authorities to ‘take account of… the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets…’?

The Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) on the Historic Environment gives some specific examples (para 002). Keep using your historic building in a way which is sympathetic to its form and character is perhaps an obvious win. Entering into a management agreement for below ground archaeology to ensure its preservation in situ though is potentially more problematic with its long-term implications and potential loss of permitted development rights.

If the loss of below ground archaeology can be justified, by balancing significance against public benefits, then recording the evidence of an asset’s significance can be seen as a positive move. Though not an enhancement, making the most of the assets contribution to understanding the past is another positive, as is making the record publicly accessible.

The focus of the NPPF, though, is clearly on public benefits. These may seem a broad church, ‘anything that delivers economic, social, or environmental’ but such benefits have to be considered carefully (NPPF para 8). Economic objectives which support growth, innovation and productivity need clear calibration and may need a viability assessment. Social objectives are seemingly more straight forward with great emphasis on housing provision, though difficult to apply in the case of individual proposals affecting listed building. Yet, here there is potential to think beyond the commonplace. A paper by Prof Schofield, shortly to be published, has shown the possible benefits of building design which takes account of Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). Such issues are important and may tip the balance in favour of development whether large-scale or small.

If you have a development proposal which affects the historic environment CgMs, now wholly part of its parent company RPS, has been serving clients in the region successfully since 1998. Call Dr Michael Dawson on 01536 790447 for more information.

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