NPPF: best-laid plans?
On 27 March, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published, streamlining over 1,000 pages of the previous Planning Policy Statement 5 (PPS5) into just over 50 pages.
The key difference between the two documents is in their emphasis; unlike PPS5, presumption in planning decisions is now in favour of sustainable development, though this is underpinned by 12 core principles, of which one is conservation of the historic environment. This means that all harm to ‘designated heritage assets’, from demolition to development, requires ‘clear and convincing’ justification and must be outweighed by public benefits. The NPPF’s definition of a ‘heritage asset’ is similar to PPS5, however: ‘a building, monument, site, place, area or landscape identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions because of its heritage interest’.
The new framework provides some extra protection, saying that ‘substantial harm to or loss of… scheduled monuments, protected wreck sites, battlefields, Grade I and II* listed buildings… and World Heritage Sites, should be wholly exceptional’, and the position of Historic Environment Records (HERs) has been reinforced with a statement that they must be consulted during development applications and should be maintained in an appropriate manner so as to keep them relevant and up to date.
essential to deliver the kind of growth that protects and enhances our valued historic places while integrating highquality new development into it.’
Dr Mike Heyworth, Director of the Council for British Archaeology, also welcomed the revised document, with some reservations. ‘We welcome the strengthening of the NPPF to reflect a more balanced approach to sustainable development. It is a measure of how far we have come in the last 25 years that there is a chapter for the historic environment in the highest level of national policy-making. We greatly regret, however, the loss of the policy objective “to contribute to knowledge and understanding of our past”; it is deeply disappointing to see this important principle is no longer explicit.’
The strongest objections came from RESCUE, the British Archaeological Trust, which noted the lack of protection for ‘the vast majority of the country’s archaeological sites and a great many valued historic structures [which] remain undesignated. Overall this framework does not serve the concerns of the historic environment particularly well and its publication seems likely to signal the start of a new round of debate and argument over the value that we place on our heritage and its role in the rejuvenation of the national economy.’
BELOW The NPPF will define future construction-led archaeology projects.
Response to the new framework has been mixed. English Heritage released a statement saying: ‘English Heritage is very pleased to have worked closely with the Government on the NPPF to secure a positive result for heritage and sustainable development. We believe that practical guidance, endorsed by the Government, is
| Issue 267
NEWS IN BRIEF
Bath’s Roman cache One of the biggest hoards of Roman coins ever found in Britain has been uncovered in Bath. Found in a strongbox just 450ft from the city’s historic baths, the 30,000 3rd-century coins represent the fifth largest hoard known from the UK, and the largest ever found in a Roman settlement. Discovered by Hazel O’Neill of Cotswold Archaeology during building work on a hotel, the coins are currently being conserved at the British Museum. The Roman Baths has launched a £150,000 fundraising appeal to buy them for their collections.
Record-breaking LAARC The archaeological archive of the Museum of London has been declared the largest collection of its kind in the world. London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC), which also celebrates its tenth birthday this year, holds over five million artefacts, as well as records from nearly 8,500 excavations dating back to 1830, stored on 10km of shelving. The title was confirmed by Guinness World Records in April. For more on what can be learned from these collections, see our feature, ‘Explaining Medieval London’, beginning on p. 36.
Heritage crimewatch Heritage crime affects around 200 historic buildings and sites every day, a new report from English Heritage has revealed. Sobering statistics revealed by this research suggest that more than 70,000 listed sites – almost a fifth of those registered – were affected by crime last year, while some 7.1% of scheduled monuments were also attacked. Worst-hit were listed churches and religious buildings, of which more than a third were damaged, with metal theft a particular concern. English Heritage Chief Executive Dr Simon Thurley said: ‘Damage done to a listed building or archaeological site can often not be put right and centuries of history will be lost forever.’
FIND OUT MORE: You can download a PDF of the NPPF here: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/ planningandbuilding/nppf www.archaeology.co.uk | current archaeology