The latest at the Suffolk Preservation Society

Many thanks to Bob Kindred for delivering our latest Heritage Training at Lavenham on March 12th.

As promised, for those who attended the seminar we have posted notes from the first part of his talk below. We hope that you found the session useful.

Part One - The technical bit

The system has layers

The law principally the 1990 Planning (Listed Buildings & Conservation Areas) Act

The courts - interpretation of the law –key judgments on setting, curtilage, fixtures etc.

National policy:

The National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF] and

The on-line National Planning Practice Guide [NPPG] providing interpretation of the NPPF.

Local Policy:

Local Plans [LDFs] setting out the Council’s strategic vision for 10-15 years ahead including housing land supply and

Supplementary Planning Guidance [SPGs] such as Conservation Area Character Appraisals & technical advice on e.g. thatch

The law says

There must be special regard to the desirability of preserving a listed building or its setting or any of its features of special architectural or historic interest.

Crucially special regard to heritage considerations takes precedence over (ordinary) ‘regard’ to planning considerations.

In conservation areas special attention shall be paid to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character and appearance of that area.

Then it starts to get a little complicated….

Government guidance says

... what are important are significance, harm, setting and tempered by proportionality (and common sense).

…these terms are not in the 1990 Act, i.e. they have no basis in law.

The courts have pronounced on setting and the NPPG defines public benefit...

...but significance is open to interpretation and harm can be “various shades of grey”.

Substantial harm to or loss of Grade 1 and 2* listed buildings ‘should be wholly exceptional’.

Substantial harm to or loss of a Grade 2 listed building park or garden ‘should be exceptional’.

Most development will lead to less than substantial harm.

This is not stepped or graduated and should be weighed against the public benefits defined in the NPPG. The public benefits of a scheme may be anything that delivers economic, social or environmental progress as described in NPPF. This can include heritage benefits that are not obvious public benefits.

Genuine public benefits do not always have to be visible or accessible to the public and may include:

  • Enhancing the significance of a listed building or conservation area and contributing to setting;
  • Reducing or removing risks to buildings (stemming decay etc.);
  • Securing optimum viable use for the long term conservation of a building.
  • The range of proposals will be wide. Large schemes are likely to impact on setting even where they don’t impact directly on a historic building ~ e.g. a housing scheme for 100 dwellings close to the parish church.

    Smaller schemes may have a limited impact ~ e.g. because that part of the historic building has already lost is special interest; or the works are low key and in sympathy with the building.

    This is not always germane to the listing grade, i.e. small scale works can also have a disproportionate impact (even small changes can be highly sensitive) and successive small scale works unexceptional once only can have a potentially damaging cumulative impact if repeated frequently.

    Proposals in conservation areas are much easier to assess if there is a Conservation Area Character Appraisal & Management Plan to a national good practice standard.

    Proportionality

    Applicants must justify their proposals but this needs to be proportionate ~ e.g. simple justification for minor works of low significance on Grade 2 buildings & in conservation areas, more detailed justification for major works & affecting areas of high significance especially to Grade 2* and Grade 1 buildings.

    …but remember the statutory tests: special regard to preservation [of features of special interest and setting of buildings] and special attention to desirability of preserving or enhancing character and appearance [of areas];

    “Conservation of heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance is a core planning principle.”

    “It is an active process of maintenance and managing change. It requires a flexible and thoughtful approach to get the best out of assets… (NPPG paragraph 3)

    “Being able to properly assess the nature, extent and importance of the significance of a heritage asset, and the contribution of its setting, is very important to understanding the potential impact and acceptability of development proposals” (NPPG paragraph 9).

    Part Two - Listed Building Applications

    Handling of applications

    Applicants will normally be expected to justify their proposals by submitting a heritage statement (a.k.a. a heritage impact assessment). This is not proscribed ~ i.e. the quality, detail & appropriateness to the circumstances vary greatly.

    Some authorities merely consider any submission to be sufficient ~ i.e. a box ticking exercise.

    As a Town or Parish Council you need to see the heritage statement not just copies of scheme drawings.

    A good statement will be usually be informative but should be proportionate and should define the significance, any harm and any impact on setting.

    Many Listed building applications are submitted without pre-application discussion. Most accompany applications for Planning Permission (known as twin tracking).

    Most are for relatively minor works – (causing less than significant harm?).

    Most schemes are submitted by applicants or agents without any conservation experience or expertise.The vast majority are delegated to Planning Officers for approval.

    About 87% of all LBCs approved (slightly lower than for planning permission);Of those refused & taken to appeal, the Planning Inspectorate upholds about 40%.

    Once Listed building consent has been granted

    Permissions where the Conditions are not fully complied with in full are technically invalid ~i.e. nothing has been approved.Failure to complete conditional works or to do them incorrectly may be an offence. Approving the right drawings with the right level of detail is therefore crucial.

    Part Three - Input by consultees

    Information to look for:

    Listings[National Heritage List for England accessible on-line]

    How old is the listing description?

    How comprehensively is the building described?

    Can the significance be assessed?

    Can the setting be assessed?

    Conservation areas

    Is there a character appraisal?

    How old is it?

    Have the boundaries of the appraisal ever been reviewed?

    How useful is it as a context for schemes?

    Is there a management plan with supplementary policies?

    Undesignated heritage assets

    Buildings of defined local interest are a material consideration.

    Are any affected that are on a formally adopted Local List?

    If so, how has this been produced?

    What weight does it carry?

    Is there any historical background

    Tithe Maps?

    Ordnance Survey Maps?

    Entries in Pevsner?

    Local historical accounts?

    Is the building in the ‘Dictionary of Suffolk Architects 1800-1914’?

    Is there any Supplementary Planning Guidance

    Suffolk Landscape Characterisation

    District Landscape Assessments

    Settlement Sensitivity Assessments

    Colour Guidance ~ e.g. for the Dedham Vale AONB and the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB

    Regarding the submission

    Does the Design & Access and/or a Planning Statement adequately covering the concepts & intentions?

    Does the Heritage Statement deal with significance? (i.e. put the scheme in context does it deal with this proportionally) or setting? (where necessary)

    Part Four - Being an effective consultee

    Comments on applications

    What exactly is intended?

    How are heritage assets affected?

    What is significant? (include local knowledge)

    What will be the impact?

    Will harm be caused, how much & in what way?

    Is there useful support from:

    National Planning Policy [NPPF Section 16]

    Local Plan Policy [Core Strategy]

    Local Guidance [Conservation Area Appraisal etc.]

    Know your facts

    Don’t necessarily rely on the information & arguments in the application (the applicant will have a particular approach to advance).

    Tackle the issues with a degree of professionalism or know where additional unbiased informed advice can be obtained (SPS?).

    When making objections

    Valid objections are:

    • Effect on listed building & conservation area
    • Building layout & density
    • Design, appearance & materials
    • Landscaping & loss of trees
    • Archaeology

    Invalid objections include:

    • Loss of property value
    • Disputes between neighbours
    • Loss of a view
    • Impact during construction
    • Ownership disputes over rights of way
    • Personal morals or views about the applicant
    • When commenting a template might include the following headings:
    • Who you are? ~ Contact address/telephone/email;
    • The scheme address & application reference no.;
    • Description of the scheme;
    • Heritage assets, significance, impact, harm, policies;
    • Bullet-point summary of the objection;
    • Supporting or recommending refusal?
    • Effective comment

    Who will read your comments? [on paper, on the council’s website]

  • Applicant?
  • Planning Officer?
  • Conservation Officer?
  • District/Ward Councilors?
  • Statutory consultees?
  • Others making representations?
  • [Understand your potential audience.]

    Make relevant, economical, effective & reasonable points.

    A snipers rifle [downed by a single shot] is much more effective than the [more typical] blunderbuss [peppering the target ineffectively].

    Bob Kindred MBE BA IHBC MRTPI - Bob Kindred Heritage Consultants Ltd

    March 2019