Friday, 30 March 2012

National Planning Policy Framework & pickling veg

I have never been one for waffle, although I could be fairly accused of information overload at times. The new NPPF released on Wednesday (27th March) seems to be a concise summary of all the issues that were considered in PPS5 and I quite like it. Only time will tell if it works well and removes most areas of ambiguity. The English Heritage companion guidance to PPS5 , the Practice Guide of 2010, is still valid and relevant, we are told by DCLG, but it will need amending quickly to ensure it carries weight in planning decisions. Dave Chetwyn on the Linkedin Group forum has also identified that it needs to respond to the Localism Act.

The main challenges it seems to me are now;

1. Defining in case law what is a heritage asset (an undesignated one). I have just seen an appeal notification (APP/A3010/A/11/2164722) where an inspector has just this week refused permission to demolish an unlisted building, which is not in a conservation area and not on the Local List but is recorded on the HER. His phrase was "its roadside position and general appearance....generate a sense of history and tradition". He therefore decided that combined with the fact that it was on the HER it was a heritage asset. This building is late 18th century in origin but is much altered.

2. Deciding who determines significance. This year's IHBC conference is about just this issue. If we rely on local groups to identify significant buildings without any process of vetting or established criteria, there is a danger that the whole process of identifying heritage assets could be undermined by over-zealous protection of everything old. In the same way, there are some conservation areas which are decidedly dodgy designations.  NPPF reinforces the need to consider designations of conservation areas carefully.

If local authorities rely on the "local view" and public opinion then significance could become exaggerated. Does it matter? Well, some would say what matters is what local's want. But then, we have created a national system of designating heritage assets over a hundred years with a thorough process of assessment. So that must be right too, mustn't it? 

I dread a backlash against over-zealous protection of any part of our heritage. We are in danger of all being labelled as people who "pickle in aspic" and I for one only want to be associated with pickling veg.

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