The national planning policy framework; Sustainable development and heritage conservation- Mike Harlow, RTPI CPD
The National Planning Policy Framework;Sustainable Development; and,Heritage ConservationMike Harlow, Governance and Legal Director, English Heritage
Sustainable Development - what is it? One of the key dimensions ofsustainability is protecting andenhancing our historic environment.[p7] Economic, social andenvironmental improvement shouldbe sought jointly andsimultaneously [p8] Pursuing SD involves seekingimprovements to the quality of thehistoric environment etc [p9]
Sustainable Development - what is it? P17 sets out 12 principles including to: Seek “high quality design” Recognise “intrinsic character and beauty of countryside” “Conserve heritage assets in a manner appropriate to theirsignificance so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to thequality of life of this and future generations”
Sustainable Development - what is it?Account should always be taken of: the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritageassets and putting them to a viable use consistent with their conservation, historic environment potential to contribute to sustainable communities,including economic vitality, and; the desirability of new development making a positive contribution to thehistoric environment’s local distinctiveness. [p126 and 131] Policies that relate to decision-taking apply to consideration ofneighbourhood development orders (inc community right to build orders),where relevant. [p202]
Weight to be given to conservation ofheritage assets No express presumption in favour ofconservation of designated heritageassets as in PPS5 However, presumption in favour of SDis a presumption in favour ofdevelopment that meets the objectivesand policies of the NPPF as a whole. 1of the 12 principles is that planningshould deliver heritage assetconservation. [p17] More particularly, conservingdesignated heritage assets in p132 isgiven great weight. This phrase is alsoused in connection with conservation ofNPs and AONBs [p115] and elsewhere,e.g. outstanding design [p63], schools[p72] and the benefits of mineralextraction [p144]
Weight to be given to conservation ofheritage assets All harm, whether through demolition, alteration or developmentwithin a setting of a designated heritage asset requires ‘clear andconvincing justification’ Loss of GII should be ‘exceptional’. Loss of GI, II* and other highly valued designated heritage assetsshould be ‘wholly exceptional’ [p132] This is the same formulation as PPS5 Non-designated archaeological sites of demonstrable equivalence toscheduled monuments should be treated as designated heritageassets [p139]
Justification of substantial harm todesignated heritage assets Total loss of a designatedheritage asset or substantialharm to it (direct physicalharm, or harm throughdevelopment within its setting)can be justified on the groundsthat: The harm is necessary todeliver public benefits thatoutweigh that harm, or Because the asset isdemonstrably non-viableand it is better to free upthe site than keep theasset [p133]
Justification of less than substantial harmto designated heritage assets This is the lesser ofthe two tests. The harm should beweighed againstpublic benefits Public benefit maybe putting the assetinto its optimumviable use. This is the sameapproach as PPS5
Non-designated heritage assetsThe effect of anapplication on theirsignificance ‘should betaken into account’. A‘balanced judgement willbe required havingregard to scale of anyharm and thesignificance of theheritage asset’ [p135]
Conservation Areas and World HeritageSites CAs and WHSs are designated heritage assets ‘Great weight’ should therefore be given to their conservation and anyharm needs ‘clear and convincing justification’ [p132] Loss of a building or other element that makes a positive contribution(such as a designed square) requires clear and convincingjustification and may amount to substantial or less than substantialharm depending on the degree of contribution to the significance ofthe conservation area overall [p132, 133, 134 and138] Positive obligation to look for opportunities to enhance or better revealsignificance [p137 and see also p7, p9, p58, p60 and p61]
The setting of heritage assets Harm to a heritage asset throughdevelopment within its setting isassessed against the same policiesas for physical harm to thesignificance of designated heritageassets generally [p132 and definitionof ‘significance’] Harm should be judged against thepublic benefits delivered by theproposal [p133 or p134] Decision-makers should look foropportunities to enhance or betterreveal the significance of the assetthrough development within its setting[p137 and see also p7, p9, p58, p60and p61]
Recording heritage assets that will beharmed or destroyed Similar to PPS5 Developers are required torecord and advanceunderstanding of thesignificance of anyheritage to be lost, whollyor in part, as part of anypermitted development. The obligation should beproportionate to theimportance of the assetand the impact Evidence should be madepublicly available [p141] Ability to record should notinfluence decision
Plan-making Local plans should be consistent with the NPPF principles [p151] Local plans should include strategic policies to deliver conservation andenhancement of the historic environment , including landscape [p156] Identify where development would be inappropriate, for instance becauseof its environmental or historic significance [p157] Have a clear strategy for enhancing the natural, built and historicenvironment [p157] They should set out a positive strategy for the conservation andenjoyment of the historic environment, recognising their irreplaceablenature [p126]
Plan-making Local Plans should take into account: The desirability of putting heritage assets to a viable use consistentwith their conservation The contribution conservation makes to wider sustainability aims The desirability of new development contributing to local character[p126] Plans should be based on adequate, up-to-date and relevant evidenceabout the historic environment [p158] Evidence should also be used to predict the likelihood for discovery ofcurrently unidentified heritage asses – particularly sites of historic andarchaeological interest [p169]. LPA should either maintain or have access to a historic environmentrecord [p169]
Design Policies Policies and decisions should aim to ensure thatdevelopments….respond to local character and history and reflect theidentity of local surroundings and materials while not preventing ordiscouraging appropriate innovation. [p58] Policies and decisions should not attempt to impose architecturalstyles or particular tastes…..it is, however, proper to seek to promoteor reinforce local distinctiveness. [p60] Policies and decisions should address the integration of newdevelopment into the historic environment. [p61] LPAs should have local design review arrangements in place [p62]
Design policies Great weight given to outstandingor innovative designs [p63] Permission refused fordevelopment of poor design [p64] Only those adverts which clearlyhave an appreciable impact on abuilding or their surroundingsshould be subject of detailedassessment. Cumulative impactscan be taken into account. 
FINALLY: The Presumption in Favour of SD ‘The policies in paragraphs 18 to 219 [of the NPPF], taken as awhole, constitute the Government’s view of what sustainabledevelopment in England means in practice for the planning system’ The presumption means that Local Plans should meetobjectively assessed needs, with sufficient flexibility to adapt torapid change, unless: any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrablyoutweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in thisFramework taken as a whole; or specific policies in this Framework indicate development should berestricted.
FINALLY: The Presumption in Favour of SD For decision-taking this means approving developmentproposals that accord with the development plan withoutdelay; and where the development plan is absent, silent or relevantpolicies are out-of-date, granting permission unless: any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrablyoutweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in thisFramework taken as a whole; or specific policies in this Framework indicate development should berestricted.
Guidance The Historic EnvironmentPlanning Practice Guide,produced in March 2010 tosupport PPS5 is still a relevantconsideration. It was produced byEH with endorsement from DCLGand DCMS. It has not been cancelled and isstill of use in helping tounderstand concepts andacceptable approaches. Government review of allguidance is underway….