Teething prob­lems plague new ap­proach to his­toric build­ings

David Hornsby re­veals why he be­lieves new listed build­ing guide­lines are be­ing lost in trans­la­tion.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

ANY­ONE who has re­cently sought con­sent to al­ter a listed build­ing may have no­ticed that their lo­cal author­ity plan­ning depart­ment has adopted a new ap­proach.

Prop­erty own­ers will have been asked to pro­vide fur­ther in­for­ma­tion be­fore the ap­pli­ca­tion is val­i­dated and it is all down to a new set of guide­lines.

In March, English Her­itage pub­lished Plan­ning Pol­icy State­ment 5, Plan­ning for the His­toric En­vi­ron­ment and it is this doc­u­ment that is caus­ing some con­fu­sion and dif­fi­culty.

The whole pur­pose of the PPS5 is to en­sure that the his­toric en­vi­ron­ment and its her­itage as­sets (in­clud­ing listed build­ings) should be con­served and en­joyed for the qual­ity of life they bring to this and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

To achieve this, PPS5 states that ob­jec­tives are to: 1. De­liver sus­tain­able devel­op­ment by en­sur­ing that poli­cies and de­ci­sions con­cern­ing the his­toric en­vi­ron­ment:

recog­nise her­itage as­sets are a non-re­new­able re­source.

take into ac­count wider so­cial, cul­tural, eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits. of her­itage con­ser­va­tion.

recog­nise that in­tel­li­gently man­aged change may some­times be nec­es­sary if her­itage as­sets are to be main­tained for the long term. 2. To con­serve Eng­land’s her­itage as­sets in a man­ner ap­pro­pri­ate to their sig­nif­i­cance by en­sur­ing that:

de­ci­sions are based on the na­ture, ex­tent and level of sig­nif­i­cance, in­ves­ti­gated to a de­gree pro­por­tion­ate to the im­por­tance of the her­itage as­set.

wher­ever pos­si­ble, her­itage as­sets are put to an ap­pro­pri­ate and vi­able use that is con­sis­tent with their con­ser­va­tion.

the pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion of such her­itage as­sets to lo­cal; char­ac­ter and sense of place is recog­nised and val­ued.

con­sid­er­a­tion of the his­toric en­vi­ron­ment is in­te­grated into plan­ning poli­cies pro­mot­ing place shap­ing. 3. To con­trib­ute to our knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing of our past by en­sur­ing that op­por­tu­ni­ties are taken to cap­ture ev­i­dence from the his­toric en­vi­ron­ment and to make this pub­licly avail­able where a her­itage as­set is to be lost.

How­ever, some of those caught up in the new process will be for­given for think­ing the Plan­ning Pol­icy State­ment has in­tro­duced a new layer of red tape, bu­reau­cracy and in­creased lev­els of negativity into the plan­ning process.

Based on my in­volve­ment act­ing for clients through­out the coun­try, many are down to in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties through­out the coun­try are dis­play­ing dif­fer­ent lev­els of un­der­stand­ing of the PPS5.

Hav­ing stud­ied my­self at great length, it is clear that English Her­itage did not in­tend the new process to be as neg­a­tive as is cur­rently be­ing in­ter­preted by some au­thor­i­ties.

The guide­lines say it is now nec­es­sary to un­der­stand the “sig­nif­i­cance” of a build­ing in or­der to make in­formed de­ci­sions about how fu­ture changes and devel­op­ment af­fect this.

The term “sig­nif­i­cance” is cen­tral to the pol­icy state­ment. In the guid­ance notes, “sig­nif­i­cance” is de­fined as “a catch-all term to sum up the qual­i­ties that make an oth­er­wise or­di­nary place a her­itage as­set”.

In short, it is the sum of its ar­chi­tec­tural, his­toric, artis­tic or ar­chae­o­log­i­cal in­ter­est.

Where prob­lems are oc­cur­ring, it is clear that lo­cal plan­ning au­thor­i­ties mis­un­der­stand “sig­nif­i­cance” and rather than look­ing at the el­e­ments that make the prop­erty stand out from the or­di­nary, they ap­pear to be list­ing all the fea­tures they can see.

If ev­ery sin­gle fea­ture, brick and stone within a build­ing is con­sid­ered to be sig­nif­i­cant, the im­pli­ca­tion is that no change can be un­der­taken with­out caus­ing harm.

For ex­am­ple, in farm build­ing con­ver­sion schemes in­ter­nal walls built in the 20th cen­tury as an­i­mal pens and win­dows in­stalled later that are out of char­ac­ter with the build­ing and set­ting have both been con­sid­ered by plan­ning of­fi­cers to be “sig­nif­i­cant” and can­not be touched.

In some cases clients have been di­rected to amend plans with the re­sult that the qual­ity of the amended scheme is poor and de­tracts from the sig­nif­i­cance of the build­ing within its set­ting.

In these cir­cum­stances clients are quite rightly crit­i­cal of the new process as it quite nat­u­rally ap­pears to be hav­ing the op­po­site af­fect than the one in­tended.

In many in­stances, and es­pe­cially with farm build­ings, lo­cal plan­ning au­thor­i­ties are di­rectly con­tra­dict­ing other pol­icy guide­lines is­sued by English Her­itage.

Gen­er­ally, the Plan­ning Pol­icy State­ment con­tains some very good points and if in­ter­preted in a proper and rea­son­able man­ner should achieve the ob­jec­tives as in­tended.

At the moment I would like to think that we have teething prob­lems and much of the blame must be firmly with the agen­cies that in­tro­duced the pol­icy state­ment.

They have not al­lowed suf­fi­cient time for the lo­cal plan­ning au­thor­i­ties to come to terms with what are ma­jor sub­stan­tial changes to the sys­tem.

A fur­ther crit­i­cism that I have is that pri­vate own­ers of listed build­ings were not no­ti­fied or in­formed about the changes and the rea­sons for im­ple­ment­ing those changes.

Lessons do need to be learned about the man­ner that the new process has been in­tro­duced, and, im­por­tantly, there may well be mem­bers of the pub­lic who are pri­vate own­ers of listed build­ings who have been dis­ad­van­taged by de­ci­sions made by lo­cal plan­ning au­thor­i­ties based upon mis­un­der­stand­ings as­so­ci­ated with the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of PPS5.

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties need fur­ther ur­gent di­rec­tion so that they can look at the wider im­pli­ca­tions and her­itage ben­e­fits that a scheme can bring rather than be­ing bogged down with ir­rel­e­vant trivia that has re­sulted in a neg­a­tive re­sponse to schemes that should re­ally have been sup­ported.

The new process in­creases the bur­den of own­ers and ap­pli­cants to pro­vide ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion about the sig­nif­i­cance of a build­ing and show that the pro­pos­als are gen­er­ally not harm­ful to the sig­nif­i­cance of the build­ing within its set­ting.

So listed build­ing own­ers be aware. A good level of de­sign and an un­der­stand­ing of the sig­nif­i­cance of a build­ing and its set­ting are im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion be­fore sub­mit­ting ap­pli­ca­tions to the lo­cal author­ity.

David Hornsby is a Don­caster-based char­tered sur­veyor, who spe­cialises in listed build­ings and works na­tion­wide. Tel: 01302 371723, www.sur­veys­by­david­hornsby. co.uk/

HIS­TORIC EN­VI­RON­MENT: The Man­sion House in York is Grade One listed.

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