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Turley Heritage & Townscape: 10 years of change

To celebrate 10 years of Turley’s Heritage & Townscape service, we are publishing a series of the team’s personal reflections, highlights and observations on a decade of working within the historic environment. Introducing the series, Head of London and Heritage & Townscape, Roger Mascall looks at 10 years of change.

I was surprised to see that our Heritage & Townscape service had reached its 10 year anniversary at the end of last year – how time flies, even in the world of heritage planning and conservation!

When we established the team in 2010 much was changing in approaches to management and assessment of change in the historic environment and valued town and landscapes. After the ‘watershed’ of PPG15 in the mid 90s combining and recognising evolved best practice in heritage planning, the abandoned Heritage Bill and subsequent PPS5 left us with new terminology and concepts, many of which have become firmly lodged in national planning policy. We have designated and non-designated heritage assets and generally accepted definitions for heritage values, conservation, heritage setting and enabling development (among many others). The substantial raft of heritage-related case law at first seemed to throw some long held concepts up in the air, only for many to land in broadly the same way - as long as duties were properly taken into account in actions as well as words, and weight was given ‘weight’. All about taking the right approach! Even the potential divergence in approach between primary legislation and national planning policy was settled, as long as the right approach is adopted.

Guidance and advice evolved at pace too – several iterations on setting, views and visual impact and how to assess ‘significance’ and heritage value. Although we’re still liable to debate how many angels sit on the pinheads of substantial and less than substantial harm, and what constitutes a public benefit, 10 years of evolution and testing of legislation, policy and guidance provide us with the pretty robust system we have today. We’ll see what comes next – local heritage and townscape value are already on the agenda whilst we seek to build more beautiful.

We also have more transparent heritage designation, streamlined consents and ‘paid for’ public sector heritage advice and services but, alas, no real efforts made to tackle the shortage of experienced and expert local authority advisors. Otherwise, Historic England morphed out of English Heritage, whilst Historic Scotland became Historic Environment Scotland, and Cadw remained unchanged, and many have had a hand on the rudder of cultural heritage in Government.

And at Turley? Our Heritage, Townscape, Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment services have evolved and grown too. Now four teams based in Cambridge, Edinburgh, London and Manchester cover the UK with expert heritage, landscape and townscape practitioners able to advise wherever change is proposed. We have some new tools such as Vu.City and constantly strive to refine and evolve what we do, whether HIAs, TVIAs, LVIAs and HTVIAs or just providing good old fashioned informed, pragmatic advice. Our projects and successes range from the very big to the very small and our team’s reflections, available to read below, highlight the best of working in the historic environment.

So thank you to all our clients, friends and contacts in the planning and heritage worlds across the public and private sectors, and whilst the future can (particularly in present circumstances) seem a little uncertain, change will continue to be a constant. We look forward to continuing to work with you for another 10 years.

10 years of Turley Heritage and Townscape

18 January 2021