Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by Joint Committee of the National Amenity Societies

(L 47)

1. The Joint Committee of the National Amenity Societies (JCNAS) brings together those voluntary organisations required to be notified under the Town and Country Planning Acts when governmental authorities are considering certain matters relating to the historic environment. All use their expert knowledge to articulate the views of many thousands of volunteers concerned with our heritage. Their role contributes to the high regard other countries have for the way in which the United Kingdom cares for its historic environment.

2. The JCNAS believes the great majority of people wish to see the planning system used to improve their neighbourhoods. We think people view it as important that the planning system balances different points of view and different interests so that any potential conflicts can be resolved as harmoniously as possible. Surveys have shown that a significant majority of people in this country care deeply about their heritage and that therefore the way in which our historic environment is protected and enhanced is important to them.

3. The government has made it clear that it does not intend there to be any lessening of protection for the historic environment. We very much welcome this.

4. The JCNAS is aware of the needs that local people may have for knowledgeable, informed and expert advice and for this reason we are taking steps, with help from English Heritage, to increase our capacity to offer assistance in matters affecting the historic environment.

5. Existing protection

At present the planning system protects the historic environment in two ways; by requiring specific permissions for such things as listed building consent, scheduled monument consent and conservation area consent and by making other matters a material consideration when determining planning applications. We believe this system gives a welcome degree of flexibility whilst at the same time protecting those things which we as a community, whether locally or nationally, care about. Our concern is that those things of more than just local significance – nationally important archaeology, the setting of listed buildings, development in conservation areas, the protection of registered parks and gardens and the buffer zones around World Heritage Sites – should continue to be a consideration in all planning policies including in the proposed Neighbourhood Plans and Neighbourhood Development Orders.

6. Heritage safeguards needed with the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in connection with the Localism Bill

The historic environment is important in its own right and because it is significant in determining the character and quality of the places in which people live and work, has a positive economic impact, is vital to our tourism industry. We feel that the care and protection of historic places is a matter for strategic policies. We are also of the view that people, in caring for the historic environment, value knowledgeable, informed and expert advice.

We would therefore urge that:-

· The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) makes it clear that the protection of the historic environment is of strategic importance and upholds the policies established in the recently issued and concise policy document PPS5.

· The NPPF should make it clear that in making any planning decisions and in developing planning policies those responsible should have a duty to take into account knowledgeable, informed and expert advice.

· Policies in Local Development Frameworks relating to the historic environment are of strategic importance.

7. Heritage safeguards needed within Neighbourhood Plans and Neighbourhood Development Orders

We are very concerned by the amendments proposed in Schedule 12 of the Localism Bill concerning Neighbourhood Plans and Neighbourhood Development Orders. Section 23 proposes to amend section 66 and 72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas act 1990) so that there will no longer be a general duty to preserve listed buildings (66(1)) nor to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of conservation areas (72(1)) when Neighbourhood Development Orders are being drawn up. Although we recognise that in most cases people will ensure that Neighbourhood Development Orders take these matters into consideration, this might not always be the case and this change could therefore result in a lessening of the protection given to our historic environment. We urge that the following must be a material consideration when Neighbourhood Plans and Neighbourhood Development Orders are drawn up:-

· Nationally important archaeology

· The setting of listed buildings and scheduled monuments

· Extension of a listed place of worship that enjoys the ecclesiastical exemption

· Development in conservation areas

· The protection of registered parks and gardens

· The protection of buffer zones around World Heritage Sites

8. Consultation

The degree to which the National Amenity Societies are consulted on planning matters should be no less than at present. In particular they should be consulted on planning policies, both national and local, which affect the historic environment.

January 2011