Housing and Planning Bill Committee

Written evidence submitted by Rescue, The British Archaeological Trust (HPB 123)

Housing and Planning Bill 2015-6

About Rescue

RESCUE is a non-political organisation dedicated to supporting archaeology and archaeologists in Britain and abroad (www.rescue-archaeology.org.uk).  We do not receive any state support and are entirely dependent on the contributions of our members to support our work.

Comment

Rescue acknowledges that some reforms to the planning system are needed to deliver the housing development that the country needs, however we are concerned that the implications of the changes to Permission in Principle as set out in Section 6 of the Bill risk denuding the current protection of the Historic Environment enshrined within the National Planning Policy Framework.

Currently protection of the Historic Environment within the planning system is covered by Section 12, paragraphs 126-141 of the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework), and paragraphs 128 and 129 in particular outline the responsibilities of local authorities and developers.

128. In determining applications, local planning authorities should require an applicant to describe the significance of any heritage assets affected, including any contribution made by their setting. The level of detail should be proportionate to the assets’ importance and no more than is sufficient to understand the potential impact of the proposal on their significance. As a minimum the relevant historic environment record should have been consulted and the heritage assets assessed using appropriate expertise where necessary. Where a site on which development is proposed includes or has the potential to include heritage assets with archaeological interest, local planning authorities should require developers to submit an appropriate desk-based assessment and, where necessary, a field evaluation.

129. Local planning authorities should identify and assess the particular significance of any heritage asset that may be affected by a proposal (including by development affecting the setting of a heritage asset) taking account of the available evidence and any necessary expertise. They should take this assessment into account when considering the impact of a proposal on a heritage asset, to avoid or minimise conflict between the heritage asset’s conservation and any aspect of the proposal.

These paragraphs place a responsibility on local authorities to gather information about Heritage Assets at risk from the development before permission is granted. Brownfield sites, by definition are sites that have been previously developed and therefore have the potential to contain some of the most complex and important archaeological deposits, and it is in these cases that it is most important, both for the protection of the historic environment and to allow developers to have a realistic view of the economics of the site, that predetermination work is undertaken. Rescue is concerned that by extending permission in principle to brownfield sites, explicitly denying the opportunity to impose conditions at the initial permission stage, developments will be at a much more advanced stage before potential Heritage Assets are identified. Such an outcome would be to the detriment of both the archaeology and the development company.

Whilst the bill does allow that certain conditions can be imposed at the ‘technical details’ stage of the planning application, the bill does not specifically allow for archaeological conditions. Rescue is therefore concerned that having already established a deviation from the NPPF by granting permission in principle, archaeological conditions, which can be perceived as a hindrance to development will be more vulnerable to omission. Whilst these conditions can now be seen by some developers as onerous, archaeological work undertaken within a planned development schedule is far less costly or disruptive than that required if archaeological sites come to light unexpectedly once all contractors are on site.

Rescue also notes that the same issues that arise regarding brownfield development arise as a result of permission in principle following allocation of sites in the Local and Neighbourhood Plans, where pre-determination archaeological assessment is essential to sustainable development.

Rescue therefore suggests that either:

1. Permission in Principle for brownfield sites and Local and Neighbourhood Plans is removed from the Bill in order to secure the necessary protection for the historic environment and to ensure sustainable and economically secure development; or

2. If the proposed changes to the status of brownfield sites are to remain in the Bill, permission in principle must only be granted with the attachment of clear planning conditions to ensure that the archaeology of our historic settlement cores is adequately protected.

December 2015

Prepared 8th December 2015