The Fate of the Heritage Protection Bill

Posted on March 19th, 2009 by Linden Groves

To the surprise of many in the heritage sector, at the last minute the Government decided not to include the Heritage Protection Bill in the legislative framework set out in the Queen’s Speech.

As regular readers of the Conservation Notes will realise, the development of this piece of overarching legislation has been one of our principal concerns over the past few years. Others, including many members of staff at English Heritage (EH), have expended considerably more time and energy on this project, and it is perhaps a tribute to their careful work that most of the principal objectives enshrined in the draft Bill can still be met.

For our part, the loss of the Bill does not appear to be significantly detrimental. The proposed unified Register of Heritage Assets, with its more holistic approach to the historic environment, will still go ahead; and as the Bill proposed no change to the status of historic landscapes in terms of statutory control, the status quo will essentially remain.

The Government has confirmed that it intends to go ahead with the revision of Planning Policy Guidance Note 15 (PPG 15) to bring it into line with the other Planning Policy Statements. We anticipate that consultation on the draft PPS 15 will take place in April.

PPG 15 advises planning authorities that the impact of proposed development on a registered site or its setting is a material consideration in the planning process. It also advises that local development frameworks and regional spatial strategies (local plans and county structure plans) should contain policies for the protection of registered sites from inappropriate development.

PPG 15 is thus a key weapon in our fight to prevent damage to historic designed landscapes which form part of our national heritage. We will therefore scrutinise the proposed wording of the new PPS very carefully to make sure that the Government makes good the commitment made in December by Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, that “the Government is 100 per cent committed to preserving and protecting our precious historic environment”.

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