Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill

ERR 47

Submission from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Summary

Whilst the Bill seeks to deliver clearer and faster decisions any successful reform needs to be supported by investment in proper conservation skills within local government. As currently proposed the reforms are likely to place a significant burden on local government resources and any reform should be accompanied with a political commitment to capacity building of skilled officers. The dramatic cut in local government resources over the last five years does not equate to the increasing number of heritage applications which do not generate a fee income. In the Royal Borough of Kensington Chelsea for example there has been a steady increase for example: 539 in 2009, 632 in 2010 and 693 in 2011. The main concerns are regarding resources and training.

1. The unification of planning permission and conservation area consent

No objection in principal provided the current criminal penalty for contravention is continued into any new system.

2. Heritage Partnership Agreements (HPAs)

These agreements between a local planning authority and the owner or other interested party of a listed building would allow specified work to be undertaken to a listed building without the need for consent. This system would require front loading and to be successful local authorities will need to have in house expertise and available resources invested at the heart of the process. Agreements should be chargeable with fees set locally to ensure the process can be sufficiently resourced similar to a PPA depending on the complexity of the building or buildings and the details of the HPA. The HPA should be supported by a legislative foundation, best practice guidance for local government and owners as well as training. It should be made clear that the specified works within an adopted heritage agreement should not prejudice the requirement for other permissions or regulatory requirements.

3. Defining the boundaries of special interest in list descriptions

The identification of heritage significance is welcomed particularly for the grey areas of curtilage structures, fixtures, fittings and later extensions and alterations. Sufficient skills and resources will need to be invested in this process without compromising other key heritage work by English Heritage. Clarity as to the local planning authorities involvement in the process to enable planning of resources.

4. Immunity certificates (COI)

The Bill will make it easier to apply for certificates of immunity from the listing of a building by enabling owners or third parties to apply for certificates at anytime rather than when a planning or listed building consent is submitted. There are concerns that in seeking certainty on the status of buildings there could be undue pressure o n local planning authorities provoking reactionary responses to the potential protection of buildings without the opportunity for thorough and informed investigatio n often requiring access . Further c larity is required as to the procedure , particularly: the time frame for assessment ; and the input of local planning a uthorities and other third parties as consultees . A reasonable time period for consultation is essential . This amendment ha s the potential for weakening heritage protection if insufficient resources are available and the real threat of potential buildings worthy of lis ted status slip ping through the net.

July 2012

Prepared 18th July 2012