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The new Historic Environment Policy for Scotland

A new Historic Environment Policy for Scotland (HEPS)[1] has been launched and will be used by national and local authorities in determining consent applications (planning, listed building, conservation area and scheduled monument consents) from May 1 when it will replace the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement (HESPS, June 2016).

Catharine Kidd, Director for Heritage in Scotland has identified how this will affect decision-making for our clients in the future. We have been working with the Scottish Property Federation and acting as a critical friend to HES during the consultation process on the draft policy and guidance documents.

A transformational policy change

The HEPS is a high level strategic policy document, a transformational change from the HESPS that concerns all assets of the historic environment, not just statutorily designated assets.

The HEPS provides just six policies, three on managing change (HEP 2-4), which are underpinned by core principles. At the heart of these is a holistic approach to understanding the historic environment and the cultural significance of a place or asset in order to manage change. If a place has cultural significance then this, how it will be affected by development proposals, and measures taken to mitigate impacts will be key considerations in the decision making process. For development projects, in most cases, this will be through design as part of the design development process, such that the significance of the asset is understood from the beginning and where possible maintained or enhanced.

The aspirations of the new HEPS, and the process for managing change set out under its managing change policies and principles is informed by long established approaches to heritage management based on an understanding of significance. We are familiar with this approach and advocate as qualified heritage professionals, it underpins the work that we do and the advice that we provide to our clients as part of the planning and development process.

Additional guidance on designated assets

The policy has been launched alongside new guidance documents specifically related to designated assets including guidance on the adaptation, re-use and demolition of listed buildings, works to scheduled monuments and new designation criteria. The new guidance on works to listed buildings is underpinned by a precautionary principle for change, promoting intervention and creative re-use over demolition; reinforcing the presumption against demolition.

The demolition guidance helpfully provides further clarity on the cases to be met to justify demolition, and the need to demonstrate that all other options, including re-use options, have been considered. As with the new policy document, the cultural significance of the asset and the impact on this is at the heart of the justification and assessment. We can advise on development sites and projects from the earliest stages to inform development and an appropriate strategy to manage risk when considering works to listed buildings and scheduled monuments with reference to the new guidance.

If you would like further information or to find out how we can help with a development project involving heritage assets in Scotland please contact Catharine Kidd.

15 April 2019

[1] Historic Environment Policy for Scotland