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31st May 2012

Draft Legislation Proposes Key Changes to Heritage Planning

The Government has published the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which includes changes to the heritage planning regime.

Their aim is ‘to improve the operation of heritage consent regimes without reducing necessary protections’.

The main change proposed by this draft legislation is to merge the planning permission and conservation area consent regimes. This means that proposals for demolition in a conservation area would in future be considered by the local planning authority as part of the application for planning permission, rather than a separate application for conservation area consent. There will be a new offence of failing to obtain planning permission for the demolition of an unlisted building in a conservation area.

The Bill also proposes to allow the Heritage List for England to define the extent of special interest in a listed building more clearly, so it is easier to determine what can be changed and what needs to be protected in individual listed buildings. The Bill will enable parts of buildings to be specifically excluded from the listing. In addition, structures fixed to or within the curtilage of a listed building can be specifically excluded, which is to be welcomed as the current system often gives rise to uncertainty as to the protection to be afforded to such structures.

The draft legislation also proposes to modify the current system of Certificates of Immunity from Listing. At present, such a Certificate can only be obtained when a planning application is made, or has been granted. The proposed changes will allow an application for a Certificate to be made at any time.

The Bill also includes measures for the introduction of a new system of ‘Heritage Partnership Agreements’ between local planning authorities and the owners of listed buildings. Such Agreements may grant listed building consent for specified works involving the alteration or extension of a listed building, but cannot be used to grant consent for the demolition of a listed building. The purpose of the Agreements is to enable the owners of large estates or complex sites to manage small-scale works without needing to make repeat applications for each individual piece of work.

The proposed changes have been welcomed by English Heritage which believes that the reforms will ‘help deliver clearer and faster decisions, support timely understanding of heritage assets and potential development sites, and will support local planning authorities and the owners of designated heritage to focus effort and resources on managing changes with a real impact on special interest’. However, others have expressed concerns about the capacity of English Heritage and local planning authorities to implement the reforms given their limited resources.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill was presented to Parliament on 23 May 2012 and is expected to have its second reading debate on 11 June.

For more information contact Gemma Dudley on gemmadudley@hewitsons.com or on 01223 532747

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