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Heritage in the ‘Arc ’

There is a surprising lack of reference to heritage in the Government’s ambition for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc which was published last week as part of the Spring Statement.

The foreword commits to embedding ‘natural capital’, creating better places for people and wildlife, and leaving the environment in a better state for future generations. This follows through to a specific policy pillar ‘Environment’ which supports these commitments.

Rightly so, but this ‘arching sweep of land’ also contains a wealth of heritage assets of huge intrinsic value which contribute significantly to the environmental quality of the region, and its value to those who live within it.

The publication does reference the number of ‘historic assets’ which the 21 district councils and five unitary authorities in the arc are said to contain. However, when the four Cambridgeshire districts alone (not including the unitary authority of Peterborough) contain 189 conservation areas, it is hard to see where the stated figure of 144 conservation areas in the entire arc comes from. Similarly, a quick search of the National Heritage List reveals that the same authorities contain 7,349 listed building entries, exceeding the figure which the publication claims for the entire arc by 28!

Perhaps these are simple accounting errors, but the lack of any stated commitment to the rich heritage legacy of the arc is surprising. After all, it is not just the fabric of listed buildings which are protected by law but their settings too. The perils of not ‘having special regard’ to the preservation of both were highlighted again earlier this year in the High Court[1]. 

Of course, the publication is a welcome commitment to supporting growth in one of the country’s most vibrant regions and this is the beginning of a journey (read our commentary on the paper here). However, in an area where heritage interests are valued and protected by vocal, well-educated and motivated communities, the Government will no doubt be ceaselessly reminded of its statutory duty, and engagement with those who champion the region’s heritage will be a necessity.

Balancing the benefits of development with the need to properly assess the significance of heritage assets is a key part of our approach. For more information on heritage issues related to the Oxford-Cambridge Arc please contact Jon Burgess.

21 March 2019

[1] R (Liverpool Open and Green Spaces Community Interest Group) v Liverpool CC & 2 others [2019] EWHC 55 (Admin)