Conserving and Enhancing the Historic Environment - NPPF

The NPPF requires Local Planning Authorities to set out in their Local Plan a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment, including heritage assets most at risk through neglect, decay, or other threats. Clearly this has major relevance to waterway-related heritage assets. It is therefore important to take into account the factors that will influence Councils in drawing up their strategy, namely:-

  • the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets and putting them to viable uses consistent with their conservation;
  • the wider social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits that conservation of the historic environment can bring;
  • the desirability of new development making a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness; and
  • opportunities to draw on the contribution made by the historic environment to the character of a place.

In determining Applications Local Planning Authorities will require Applicants to describe the significance of any heritage assets affected, including any contribution made by their setting. When considering the impact of a proposed development on the significance of a designated heritage asset, great weight should be given to the asset’s conservation. The more important the asset, the greater the weight should be. Nevertheless, where a proposal will lead to less than substantial harm to the significance of a designated heritage asset, this harm should be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal, including securing its optimum viable use. In the case of non-designated heritage assets, a balanced judgement will be required having regard to the scale of any harm or loss and the significance of the heritage asset. All heritage assets will therefore be protected and if development involves the loss of the whole or part of the heritage asset, this will only be countenanced when the replacement new development is known and that such development is able to proceed.

Clearly the above guidance which replaces that formally contained within PPS5: Planning for the Historic Environment, will have many implications for both the protection and safeguarding of waterways’ heritage. It nevertheless recognises that change can sometimes be justified and in some circumstances can be beneficial. For example, the NPPF advises that Local Planning Authorities should assess whether the benefits of a proposal for enabling development which would otherwise conflict with planning policies but which would secure the future conservation of a heritage asset, outweigh the disbenefits of departing from those policies. Also, developers will be required to record and advance understanding of the significance of any heritage asset to be lost wholly or in part. However, the ability to record evidence of our past should not be a factor in deciding whether such loss should be permitted. ie. it is not a material consideration in support of any such loss.