HERITAGE ASSETS THAT CANNOT BE KNOWN 14/08/09
Heritage Assets that cannot be known!
1. Following the abandonment by the government, of the Heritage Act last year, a new PPS15 combining PPG15- Planning and the Historic Environment and PPG16- Archaeology has been rather hastily produced. The new PPS15 introduces the counterproductive polarities of, streamlining as well as over complicating the management of the heritage environment. In fact the over complication reaches deep into the world of uncertainty. It declares that unlisted buildings outside conservation areas will all be considered as potential heritage assets and that local authorities will have the power to take away the owner’s permitted development rights, without consultation. This is a huge unmanageable change and puts the ability to impede human rights, through local listing, into the hands of politicians and potentially overzealous conservation officers. It will also complicate the planning process and impede renewal and regeneration. The impending problem is summed up in two quotes, one from a separate guidance document, “Many heritage assets are not designated” and in the
2. Taken together, the new
3. Second, in a rather contradictory fashion, it indicates that protection will be exercised on a much wider scale or broader base than is currently the case. In other words, buildings or ‘local lists’ and singular ‘heritage assets’ which are undesignated may be served with an Article 4 Direction to take away normal development rights such as ‘demolition’. Currently if a building is not listed, nor seen as part of the curtilege of a listed building nor part of a conservation area, the owner has a right to demolish it without permission. The Article 4 Direction will take away this right. Although local authorities will need to consult on the criteria for issuing such directions, actually serving the direction requires none. It will be, essentially, a political decision based on the advice of a conservation officer, who may just be a preservation enthusiast! There appears to be no appeal process, as is promised with the change in the Act, concerning the formal listing of buildings, where the decision of ministers is replaced with English Heritage.
The fact that all the guidance aspects are to be written by English Heritage as a ‘living draft’ indicates that they are being given the power to write their own rules on the basis of an Act which has yet to be debated in Parliament.
4. This is reflected in the comparison between the policy (PPS15) and the guidance (EH) when it comes to non-designation. The policy, in respect to archaeology states in (HE 10.6) that ‘the absence of designation does not necessarily indicate lower significance’! This sounds to me like designation incompetence. At Annex 1 Terminology the definition of a ‘heritage asset is: ‘A building monument, a site, or landscape of historic, archaeological, architectural, or artistic interest whether designated or not’, effectively spreading the questionable practice used in archaeology, into the sphere of historic buildings of all kinds. This is transposed in the guidance under the title significance, following a list of, listed buildings, scheduled monuments and conservation areas, by the following, although there are equally important assets that are not or cannot be designated; and later on ‘many heritage assets are not designated’. If they are of equal value, then surely it is incompetence that leaves them undesignated. Either this or the mixing of archaeology jargon with that of the built form, is giving rise to anomalies.
5. Significance is described in the PPS as ‘the value of a place to this and future generations because of its heritage interest. That interest may be archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic. Two issues arise from this statement, first is that ‘value’ has a lesser or greater degree. Significance is implicitly acknowledged, therefore, as a sliding scale, though neither in the PPS or the guidance is this acknowledged or a methodology provided for it. This is to come in a separate guidance note in due course. Also in the value categories recited in the document are inconsistent with EH’s 2008 Conservation Principles document, which includes ‘communal value’.
6. Within the EH Guidance notes (living draft) it comments on certain policies set out in the PPS. For instance:
Policy HE5: Permitted development and Article 4 directions: This policy is broadly consistent with policy currently set out in: PPGs15
No it is not!
Article 4 Directions on non-designated assets is new, and highly controversial.
Policy HE9: Policy principles guiding the determination of applications for development relating to all heritage assets: This policy is broadly consistent with policy relating to conservation of the historic environment that is currently set out in PPGs15 and 16.
No it is not!
a. Undesignated Heritage Assets have had no protection before.
b. The same tests for alteration or demolition apply to all categories rather than being based on what is required for listed building and used more ‘broadly’ for non-listed.
c. The tests differ. It appears that the ‘condition’ of an asset is no longer relevant to its survival.
7. A rather ‘scantily clad’ PPS and an unpredictable ‘living draft’ practice guide, being in constant development by English Heritage, actually is likely lead to greater completeness and conflict than is currently the case. The government should be pressed to review the review and suggest to the writers of the documents that they call a spade, a spade!