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National Planning Policy Framework: conserving and enhancing the historic environment

As flagged by the Ministry’s accompanying note, the most obvious change to the heritage chapter (now 16) of the draft text emphasises the importance of World Heritage Sites and their international recognition and Outstanding Universal Value.

World Heritage Sites

As flagged by the Ministry’s accompanying note, the most obvious change to the heritage chapter (now 16) of the draft text emphasises the importance of World Heritage Sites and their international recognition and Outstanding Universal Value. Not a new concept, but purposely headlined in the opening paragraph of the chapter, no doubt in part to signal their importance as a planning consideration to UNESCO given concerns regarding perceived risk to World Heritage Sites from development proposals in London and Liverpool. Nevertheless as heritage assets in their own right, World Heritage Sites still don’t attract the statutory protection afforded to Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas.

Great weight regardless of degree of harm

Otherwise, opportunity is taken to neatly align the application of national heritage policy with the application of the statutory heritage duties in light of heritage case law since the introduction of the Framework. The draft text emphasises that great weight should be given to the conservation of designated heritage assets regardless of the degree or amount of any potential harm. This reflects the ‘considerable importance and weight’ that must be given to the statutory duty seeking preservation of listed buildings and their settings even where the harm is less than substantial.

However, in reflecting this in policy which applies to all designated heritage assets, the same great weight also needs to be given to any degree of harm to World Heritage Sites, Scheduled Monuments, Registered Park and Gardens and Registered Battlefields, otherwise not the subject of statutory duties.

Opportunity has also been taken to break down the policy on approach to consideration of proposals affecting designated heritage assets so that the presently stated requirements for clear and convincing justification for harm and the exceptional and wholly exceptional instances for substantial harm now form a single explicit policy.

Less than substantial harm

The now tried and tested policy concept of substantial and less than substantial harm remains, and as now continues to trigger different considerations to be weighed in the balance. Notably in instances of less than substantial harm the present add-on of ‘securing optimum viable use’ to the requirement of weighing harm against public benefits, is dropped in the draft text.

Other polices remain largely unchanged although a typographical error has crept into the re-wording of what is presently paragraph 138 regarding the approach to loss of an element of an area-based designated asset and the associated triggering of polices on harm. No doubt this will be rectified in the final version.

Further Turley commentary on the draft revised NPPF is available here. If you have any questions regarding the NPPF, please contact Roger Mascall.

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