Members' Login

Consultation on the Draft National Planning Policy Framework

A Response from the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers.

The Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers

The Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO) is the national body representing local government archaeology services. These provide advice to nearly all Local Planning Authorities in the country. ALGAO: England co-ordinates the views of its member authorities and presents them to government and to other national organisations. It also acts as an advisor to the Local Government Association (LGA) on archaeological matters.

General Comments

The historic environment is a non-renewable resource with is critical to the study and understanding of the history and development of this country from the distant to the recent past. It is also a resource with huge potential for understanding identity and place, for contributing to the quality of life, for sustainable growth and for delivering a wide range of economic, social and cultural benefits.

We therefore welcomed the government’s repeated affirmation that it was not the intention to reduce in any way the level of protection for the historic environment which had been set out in the widely welcomed PPS 5, published in 2010. The Historic Environment Section of the Impact Assessment which accompanies the Draft Framework states, ‘Because the policies themselves have not changed, the impacts of moving from Planning Policy Statement 5 to the Framework for those involved in the historic environment should be de minimis.’ ALGAO, however, does not feel that this is the case and that the wording of the Framework as it stands significantly reduces the protection of the historic environment through the planning system and particularly the protection of the vast majority of heritage assets that are not designated.

Specific Questions

1a The Framework has the right approach to establishing and defining the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree

Disagree

1b Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number) Paras 9,14,110 and 184

ALGAO has no objection to the adoption of the Bruntland definition of sustainable development in para 9 of the Framework. The historic environment and the heritage assets incorporated within it are a non-renewal resource and its management and protection are an integral part of sustainable development. The tone of the draft Framework suggests that the interpretation of sustainable development will be in a way which does not provide for adequate consideration of the historic environment. Paragraphs 14 requires local authorities to grant permission “unless the adverse impacts of allowing development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits” This conflicts with the policy in para 184 in the historic environment section which states ”Where the application will lead to substantial harm to or total loss of significance of a designated asset local planning authorities should refuse consent unless it can be demonstrated that the substantial harm or loss is necessary to achieve substantial public benefits which out weigh that loss or harm” This conflict needs to be resolved in a way which does not reduce the current level of heritage protection.

2a The Framework has clarified the tests of soundness and introduces a useful additional test to ensure local plans are positively prepared to meet objectively assessed need and infrastructure requirements

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree

Neither agree nor disagree

(b) Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number)

Paragraphs 23, 48, 52

ALGAO welcomes the statement in para 48 that Local Plans should be consistent with national policy. We also welcome the statement in para 52 that that neighbourhood plans should be in general conformity with the strategic policies in local plans including those designed for the protection and enhancement of the historic environment.

Para 37 We welcome the specific reference to Historic Environment Records but the policy should make reference to the need for expert staff who are needed to maintain and develop HERs. HERs are not static lists of sites or monuments but dynamic records which are constantly developing and which contain diverse information from a multitude of sources. This needs interpretation if it is to be genuinely useful to all usersand this needs relevant expertise.

We also welcome reference to the need for local plans to use their evidence base on the historic environment to predict the likelihood that currently unidentified heritage assets with historic and archaeological interest will be discovered in the future. Historic Environment Records are used to identify such heritage assets which include, for example, areas with no known heritage assets, but which are adjacent – or otherwise closely comparable to – areas that have been investigated and are known to contain heritage assets with historic and archaeological interest. It is especially important that areas with high potential for heritage assets with archaeological interest which are thought to contain nationally important archaeological remains worthy of designation as Scheduled Monuments are identified during the production of local plans, including NDPs.

Para 39 We are concerned that the wording in para 39 emphasising the need to ensure the viability of site identified in local plans may be taken as a justification for setting aside policies for the protection of the historic and natural environment and remove the requirement for developer to mitigate the impacts of development on heritage assets. We do not believe it is the intention of this policy to reduce heritage protection but as it stands we are concerned about its implications and would urge you to review it.

Para 52 We believe that this policy should be strengthened to ensure that neighbourhood plans are consistent with national policy and do not just ‘have regard to’ national policy.

2c The policies for planning strategically across local boundaries provide a clear framework and enough flexibility for councils and other bodies to work together effectively.

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree

Neither agree nor Disagree(?)

(b) Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number) No comments

3a In the policies on development management, the level of detail is appropriate.

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree

Disagree

(b) Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number)

Paras 64, 65

We are concerned that undesignated heritage assets will potentially lose the protection afforded to them by the Framework through the use of Local Development Orders and Neighbourhood Development and Community Right to build Orders and it needs to be clarified that this will not be the case. The assessment of the significance of heritage assets and the potential impacts upon them through the consideration of a planning application is a key factor in their protection. If this process is to be removed by Local Development Orders and Neighbourhood Development Orders then there needs to be further policy provision within the Framework to ensure that the potential impact upon designated and undesignated assets are properly considered.

Paras 67-70 We feel that the tone in this policy on conditions is negative and stresses restricting their use. In dealing with the historic environment reasonable conditions can provide positive benefits in securing public benefit and the increase in and dissemination of new knowledge and understanding of the past and of particular heritage assets. We feel this should be recognised within the section on the historic environment.

4a Any guidance needed to support the new Framework should be light-touch and could be provided by organisations outside government.

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree

Agree with reservations

(b) Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number)

Guidance is needed to support the specialist areas within the Framework to ensure that best practice is employed in implementing the policies. We are concerned about what is meant by ‘light touch’. In dealing with the historic environment the sector has developed a series of procedures and processes for dealing with heritage assets through the planning system that are well understood and considered best practice and ‘light touch’ should not indicate that such best practice is optional.

The professional bodies and institutes within the sector can provide such guidance and can ensure that policy is implemented according to recognised professional standards. If such guidance is not to be produced by government it will need endorsement by government to make its status and the weight to be attributed to it clear.

4b What should any separate guidance cover and who is best placed to provide it?

The historic environment section of the Framework should be the subject of specialist guidance and this should build on the guidance document produced in association with PPS 5 (PPS5 planning and the Historic Environment: Historic Environment Planning Practice Guide). The historic environment sector including the professional institutes and associations is well placed to provide this guidance and to set out what is considered best practice in implementing policies in the Framework.

5a The ‘planning for business’ policies will encourage economic activity and give business the certainty and confidence to invest.

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree Neither agree nor disagree

5b Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number)

Clearly there is a need to encourage economic development but there need to be clear policies to safeguard the non renewable resource that is the historic environment. The fact that the historic environment can be an important economic asset and driver of regeneration should also be adequately considered.

5c What market signals could be most useful in plan making and decisions and how could such information be best used to inform decisions.

No Comments

6a The town centre policies will enable communities to encourage retail, business and leisure development in the right locations and protect the vitality and viabiltity of town centres.

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly

Neither agree not disagree

6b Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number)

Whilst we acknowledge the need for town centres to develop retail and leisure amenities, this should not be at the expense of the historic environment. The character of town centres is heavily influenced by the historic environment, in terms of scale and density of development, street plan and character of buildings. These features play a vital role in attracting people and businesses, contributing significantly to the local economy and quality of life, and the capacity of a town centre to absorb new development without detriment to this special character should be taken into account

7a The policy on planning for transport takes the right approach

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly

Neither agree not disagree (?)

7b Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number)

No comments

9a The policies on minerals planning adopt the right approach

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly

Agree (?)

9b Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number)

Para 101 second bullet point and para 103 fourth bullet point are greatly welcomed. This will help protect a rare and fragile part of the historic environment that contains some of the best preserved archaeological and palaeo-environmental information in the country.

Para 102 first bullet point could be stronger to make it clear that new extraction in these and other designated areas should be wholly exceptional.

Para 103 fifth bullet point should also refer to obligations as well as conditions.

10a the policies on housing will enable communities to deliver a wide choice of high quality homes in the right location, to meet local demand.

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly

Neither agree not disagree

10b Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number)

Para 110 see comments under question 1b

11a The policy on planning for schools takes the right approach.

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly

Neither agree nor disagree

11a Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number)

No comments

12a The policy on planning and design is appropriate and useful

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly

Neither agree nor disagree

12b Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number)

No comments

13a the policy on planning and the Green Belt gives a strong clear message on Green Belt protection

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly

Neither agree no disagree

13b Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number Para 147 Whilst we do not disagree that the development of community forests can provide opportunities for improving the environment they can also have a detrimental impact on the historic environment and heritage features including historic landscapes. Proposals for the development of Community Forests should be required to take the historic environment into account.

14a The policy relating to climate change takes the right approach

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly

Neither agree not disagree

14b

14c The policy on renewable energy will support the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly

Neither agree not disagree

14d Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number

No comments.

14e The draft Framework sets out clear and workable proposals for plan-making and development management for renewable and low carbon energy, including the test for developments proposed outside of opportunity areas identified by local authorities

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly

Neither agree not disagree

14f Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number

No comments

14g the policy on flooding and coastal change provides the right level of protection

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly

Neither agree not disagree

14h Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number)

No comments

15a Policy relating to the natural and local environment provides the appropriate framework to protect and enhance the environment.

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly

Disagree

15b Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number)

The landscape of this country is a product of the interaction between humans and the natural environment over millennia. Whilst ALGAO is particularly concerned over the policies in the Framework as they relate to and impact on the historic environment, many of the concerns expressed about the general presumption in favour of development are as relevant to the natural as well as the historic environment. Indeed we would welcome a more explicitly holistic approach to the environment. It would also be useful to review the use of the term environment as there are occasions in the Framework where the policy refers to the environment but could equally include the historic environment.

Para 167 fourth bullet point should refer to historic environment rather than ‘cultural heritage’ for the sake of consistency.

Para 167 fourth bullet point third sub point we would like it to be made clear that this point refers to the historic as well as the natural environment.

16a Historic Environment: This policy provides the right level of protection for heritage assets.

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly

Strongly Disagree

16b Do you have comments? (please begin with relevant paragraph number.

Government has repeatedly stated that its intention is to retain the protection of the historic environment provided by PPS5. We do not believe that the Framework as it stands provides that level of protection.

Para 177 PPS5 clearly acknowledged that the historic environment was a non renewable resource which we feel is a key point about the historic environment and heritage assets which was clear in PPS5 but is missing from the Framework. We would urge that this point is made clearly.

Para 180 Clearly he level of information provided by an applicant should be proportionate to the nature of the application but we would like to see it clearly stated that enough information needs to be provided by the applicant prior to the determination of an application to allow a considered decision to be made. This would reproduce the principal of policy HE6.3 in PPS5.

PPS 5 was also strong on encouraging community involvement which is not so clearly set out in the Framework. Proposals. We might suggest some wording along the lines of ‘Proposals that can demonstrate good engagement with the community in the process of describing the significance of heritage assets and enacting mitigation of impacts for heritage assets should be looked on more favourably by the local planning authority.

Para 181 Para 181 should identify that LPAs ‘take into account’ the particular significance of any heritage asset (as per PPS5 para 7.2) rather than ‘identify and assess’ this. Identification and assessment is the duty of the applicant (as stated in para 180, and PPS5 policy HE6).

Para 183 We are concerned about the different weight given in this para to designated heritage assets as opposed to the green belt the natural environment and to heritage assets in national parks and AOBs (check para). These are given ’great weight’ whereas designated heritage assets are given ‘considerable weight’. This implies a different degree of protection and will certainly be taken to imply that heritage assets have lesser degree of protection. We assume this was not the intention but we would urge that this difference in wording be rationalised and designated heritage assets are also given ‘great weight’ when being considered.

Para 184,185 We would refer back to the comments under 1a. We are also concerned that there is no policy on less than substantial harm equivalent to PPS5 policy HE9.4. Without such a policy we feel that the protection for heritage assets will be greatly reduced. Para 185 does refer to non-designated assets but we feel this needs to be clearer and more fully described to avoid reducing the level of protection for non-designated assets provided by PPS5.

Para 189 We feel this needs to have the addition of the phrase ‘ whether capable of designation or not’ as there are archaeological sites and remains which because of their nature cannot be scheduled under existing legislation but are clearly of equivalent significance to designated sites.

Para 191 Whilst we welcome the intention of this policy we feel it could be made clearer and more explicit that this should be achieved through the use of conditions or obligations.

Dr David Barrett MIFA, FSA Chair ALGAO:England

14 October 2011