Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Institute for Archaeologists (L71)

1. The Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) is a professional body for the study and care of the historic environment. It promotes best practice in archaeology and provides a self-regulatory quality assurance framework for the sector and those it serves. It has almost 3,000 members and more than 60 registered practices across the UK.

2. IfA is a member of the Heritage Alliance and the Archaeology Forum.

3. IfA welcomes the opportunities which the Bill presents to engage and empower local people within the planning system (and, in particular, in the management and protection of the historic environment). IfA welcomes the Government’s continuing commitment to maintain levels of protection for the historic environment, as expressed in the formulation of PPS5: Planning for the Historic Environment and The Government’s Statement on the Historic Environment for England 2010 and repeated in the promotion of this Bill.

4. There is, however, a need for safeguards in the Bill to ensure that the historic environment is afforded adequate consideration and protection since the Bill (and, in particular, the provisions as to neighbourhood planning) as currently drafted may reduce the level of protection that the planning system currently provides.

5. Neighbourhood development orders would essentially extend the framework of permitted development rights and could have potentially far-reaching effects on the historic environment (which can be vulnerable to both small- and large-scale development). In this context the provisions of paragraphs 23 and 24 of Schedule 12 to the Bill (providing that the duties in section 66 and 72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 are not to apply in relation to neighbourhood development orders) are of particular concern. Even though a requirement for listed building and other consents will still apply in some cases, there is scope for damage to the historic environment if development orders are made without proper consideration of the implications for the historic environment. IfA requests that paragraphs 23 and 24 be amended, firstly, to confirm that section 72 does apply in relation to neighbourhood development orders and, secondly, to extend the scope of section 66 to ensure that it also applies in relation to such orders.

6. Furthermore, much of the historic environment is not designated nor subject to parallel consent procedures. In the planning regime undesignated assets are protected as material considerations. If development that will destroy these assets (such as important archaeological sites) is granted permission, the developer is obliged to arrange for their excavation, for publication and for other public benefits from increased understanding through conditions and obligations. The protection provided by such detailed conditions and obligations would be hard to replicate through the neighbourhood development order procedure.

7. The proposed provisions in Schedule 10 of the Bill in relation to the ‘basic conditions’ for the making of neighbourhood development orders do not provide adequate safeguards since

(1) the requirement for an examiner to conclude that it is appropriate to make an order having regard to national policies and advice issued by the Secretary of State leaves too much discretion for overriding heritage protection policy and begs the question as to what will be included in the National Planning Policy Framework and (2) the requirement for an examiner to conclude that the making of the order is in general conformity with the strategic policies contained in the development plan for the area begs the question as to what constitutes a strategic policy.

8. The Bill (and National Planning Policy Framework) should make clear

(1) that the management and protection of heritage assets are material considerations to be taken into account in the formulation and consideration of neighbourhood development plans and orders and (2) that development plan policies relating to the management and protection of the historic environment constitute strategic policies for the purposes of proposed provisions in Schedule 10 of the Bill.

9. Moreover, development affecting nationally important heritage assets should be identified either in Schedule 9 to the Bill or in subordinate regulations as ‘excluded development’ (as defined in section 61I of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990).

10. IfA fully endorses the desire to engage local communities more fully in the planning process and in the management of the historic environment. The role of professional heritage advisors to local planning authorities to enable all communities to have access to necessary expert advice for neighbourhood planning must continue to be highlighted in policy and supported by adequate funding, if neighbourhood planning is not to become the preserve of those areas with sufficient resources to undertake it.

11. In the light of the small numbers required, for instance, to set up neighbourhood forums, there will need to be sufficient safeguards to ensure that neighbourhood planning is genuinely undertaken in the best interests of the community, its environment and that of its immediate neighbours and the wider public.

February 2011