Memorandum by English Heritage (CAB 30)
I refer to the recent call for evidence for
the inquiry into the role and effectiveness of CABE. English Heritage
has a great deal of contact with CABE and this short submission
summarises its views on the organisation.
1. English Heritage is a non-departmental
public body established under the National Heritage Act 1983 to
help protect the historic environment of England and promote awareness,
understanding and enjoyment of it.
2. Since our inception, English Heritage
has been consulted on tens of thousands of planning, listed building,
conservation area and scheduled monument consent applications
and many of those to which it has responded raise design issues.
English Heritage has also published guidance on design-related
matters, offered grants for the conservation of historic buildings
and areas and encouraged a greater appreciation of the built environment.
3. English Heritage has close links with
CABE, as it did with its predecessor organisation, the Royal Fine
Arts Commission. The remits of CABE and English Heritage are different,
but there is a significant area of common interest, just as there
are overlaps between English Heritage and other non-departmental
government bodies such as the Countryside Agency and English Nature.
The areas where the common ground is the greatest include the
design of buildings and spaces in a historic context and the production
of guidance, training and outreach on such issues.
4. English Heritage and CABE continue to
work on many joint initiatives. There is informal contact on many
issues, for example sharing drafts of statements with the other
party, as well as joint publications and initiatives.
5. A notable joint achievement has been
the successful development of the English Heritage Urban Panel
into a jointly sponsored initiative with CABE, which has added
greater breadth and depth to the advice it offers. The Panel offers
advice to local planning authorities and developers on a range
of large-scale and controversial proposals in historic towns and
cities undergoing rapid change. Its advice draws on the experience
and expertise of a selection of the very best specialists in urban
design, architecture and the historic environment.
6. Joint publications include Building
in Context (2001), Guidance for Tall Buildings (2003),
Shifting Sands: Design and the Changing Image of English Seaside
Towns (2003), Building Sustainable Communities: Action
for Housing Market Renewal (2003), and Moving towards
excellence in urban design and conservation (2002).
More are being prepared. These offer decision-makers practical
advice on how to tackle design issues, and both organisations
benefit from the debate that occurs as the publications are being
7. English Heritage is also working closely
with CABE on encouraging local authorities to appoint Historic
Environment and Design Champions at elected Member level. The
two organisations have co-operated closely in defining the roles
of Historic Environment Champions and their Design counterparts.
Both English Heritage and CABE have published guidance on this,
and we are currently jointly funding training that we hope will
lead to the development of regional networking groups to share
good practice and further develop these roles.
8. The links between the two agencies have
been further strengthened by the work of Les Sparks, who is a
Commissioner of both organisations and helps ensure that areas
of common interest are acted on co-operatively.
9. England contains hundreds of thousands
of historic buildings, archaeological sites, conservation areas,
historic parks and gardens. It is inevitable that many planning
decisions will have an impact on them. The occasions when CABE
and English Heritage have disagreed on the importance of the impact
of a specific proposal have been few, and constitute only a tiny
proportion of the total number of applications on which we have
both commented. Any differences tend to be in emphasis, or the
degree of significance afforded to a particular element in the
historic environment, rather than a more fundamental difference
of approach. It is for the local planning authority, or the First
Secretary of State if the application is called in, to judge which
opinion carries the most weight in any individual case.
10. Those cases where English Heritage and
CABE have expressed differing views include a number of high-rise
buildings in London such as the Heron, London Bridge and Swiss
Re towers. This arose because of the different remits of the two
organisations; English Heritage placing greater emphasis on the
historic context and the settings of historic buildings or sites
while CABE is principally concerned with the design solution proposed
and its contribution to the architectural character of an area.
We both strive to clarify the reason for differing views and to
acknowledge the different perspectives of the other.
11. English Heritage participates in the
Design Task Group which was established by CABE for Pathfinder
Partnerships to share best practice in housing market renewal.
The Task Group takes forward the agenda for action set out in
Building Sustainable Communities: Actions for Housing Market
Renewal through sharing best practice on such matters as design
quality, sustainability and the reuse of existing buildings.
12. In its report on the Role of Historic
Buildings in Urban Regeneration (2004), the Select Committee commented
that "there are concerns that the functions of CABE and EH
overlap and that they are not working closely enough together
and providing consistent advice on planning applications . . .
. In some instances CABE and EH are giving conflicting advice.
EH tends to favour conservation while CABE prefers a modernist
approach." The Committee recommended that "the relationship
between CABE and EH needs to be reinforced in order to rationalise
their operations, to minimise duplication and to ensure their
advice is consistent."
13. English Heritage believes that the advice
it is giving is consistent with its remit as the Government's
advisor on matters that affect the historic environment. CABE
offers advice in its remit as advisor on design and although its
remit does not specifically include the historic environment,
clearly most large-scale new developments will have an effect
on it. English Heritage believes that local authorities do not
have any difficulty in understanding the different roles of the
two organisations and are perfectly able to balance their different
perspectives in coming to a considered judgement, just as they
have to balance the comments from other non-departmental public
bodies that deal with environmental matters.
14. CABE has proved to be extremely successful
in promoting high standards in the design of buildings and the
spaces between them. Although their primary focus is rightly on
new buildings, English Heritage believes that CABE has had a positive
impact on the historic environment by highlighting good practice
in urban design and in raising expectations and encouraging high
quality responses to the built environment.
15. CABE acknowledges the importance of
responding to context. English Heritage helps developers and communities
understand what this means in practice. English Heritage believes
that the two organisations work well together and that both provide
important, but distinct, advice and encouragement in delivering
better places for people. It believes that CABE should continue
to develop its range of publications and initiatives and that
both organisations should identify further joint projects.
I trust this response is of assistance to you.
Please contact me if you would like further information on any
points raised in this evidence.
Director of Planning and Development