Planning Tools

Most intervention in the historic environment is either given permission or carried out by local authorities, and local planning authorities play a vital role in conserving England's heritage through working with local communities. HELM aims to make it easier for local authority councillors, staff and non-heritage specialists get the most benefit from their local historic environment.

People in a cathedral square

The new Cathedral Square, Peterborough

Local authority planning departments are the initial contact for advice for those who want to make alterations to their listed properties or carry out development schemes in the historic areas. Most have in house historic environment expertise, or employ expert consultants. To achieve quality results with efficient use of resources they need to be contacted at the earliest possible stage when developing a proposal.  Local authorities also produce guidance on protection, development and management of the historic environment.

English Heritage is the UK Government’s statutory advisor and a planning statutory consultee on all aspects of the historic environment.  We respond to consultations from local planning authorities on planning and heritage consent applications relating to listed buildings, conservation areas, scheduled monuments and registered parks and gardens, and publish a wide range of policy and guidance on managing the historic environment.

National Planning Policy Framework: The National Planning Policy Framework was published on 27 March 2012, replacing all the previous Planning Policy Statements, including PPS 5, as well as various other planning guidance. Its central theme is the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’, set out in twelve core land-use planning principles which underpin both plan-making and decision-taking.

Although matters relevant to the historic environment are scattered throughout these principles (particularly design, urban and countryside policies), it is the section on Conserving and Enhancing the Historic Environment (paras 126-141) which supersedes PPS 5, whilst following that document’s significance-led approach to decision-taking.

English Heritage has produced two comparison documents for ease of reference; one compares the NPPF historic environment policies to those in PPS 5, and the other gives information together with detail on additional policies in the NPPF not mentioned in PPS 5.

PPS5 Practice Guide is maintained as guidance to support the historic environment paragraphs of the NPPF. Following the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework, PPS5 was deleted. However the freestanding Practice Guide remains a valid and Government endorsed document pending Government's review of guidance supporting national planning policy as set out in its response to the Select Committee report. The references in the document to PPS5 policies are obviously now redundant, but the policies in the NPPF are very similar and the intent is the same, so the Practice Guide remains almost entirely relevant and useful in the application of the NPPF.  It can be viewed on line.

English Heritage issued interim guidance on conservation areas in March 2011, now being updated in the light of the National Planning Policy Framework. The 2011 guidance Understanding Place: Conservation Area Designation, Appraisal and Management remains in place at present, and will be replaced in 2012.

Article 4 directions are tools for local planning authorities to manage change in conservation areas.  They are particularly effective when used as part of a well-considered management plan supported by guidance to local owners. English Heritage has included guidance on Article 4 directions within the latest conservation area guidance – see above.

Neighbourhood Planning is a new community level of plan to enable communities to decide future development of their local area. It was introduced by the Localism Act 2011 and regulations covering this plan-making came into effect from April 2012. Local groups can produce Neighbourhood Plans to cover their local area or establish Neighbourhood Development Orders or Community Right to Build Orders to allow certain developments. English Heritage, together with the other government-sponsored environmental agencies, has produced guidance on how to use, protect and enhance the environment at this neighbourhood level: Planning for the environment at neighbourhood level

Our own advice about how local groups can improve their local areas helps communities with the process of understanding their area. It is intended to help people and organisations identify how they would like to see change occur across their neighbourhood and how to develop these ideas into a plan.

We are unable to give individual guidance to each group working on each neighbourhood plan, but will help with plans that raise strategic issues on the historic environment. We are willing to look at any pre-submission or submitted local plan to give our views on whether there are historic environment issues. We encourage local groups and local authorities to send these plans to our local offices.

Understanding Place and Understanding Historic Buildings are two series of guidance documents designed to help public and private sector professionals use assessment tools to better understand the historic environment. Understanding Place: An Introduction explains how to use historic landscape character as a way to understand how an area has changed over time, and what can be detected of the different layers of history now. Understanding Place: Character and Context in Local Plans shows how this has been used to help develop planning policies which work ‘with the grain of the past’. Understanding Historic Buildings: Policy and Guidance for Local Planning Authorities, gives advice as to the right levels of analysis and recording of historic buildings that local authorities should expect from applicants to support an application, and for the purposes of recording a building about to undergo major change or even demolition.

  • Understanding Place: An Introduction Understanding Place: An Introduction
    Publication Date: 07 Jun 2010
    There are many different techniques of historic characterisation tailored to different scales and circumstances. The main approaches used by English Heritage are summarised in this document.
  • Understanding Place: Character and context in local planning Understanding Place: Character and context in local planning
    Publication Date: 15 Nov 2011
    This document offers ideas for local authorities, councils and communities on the practical uses of historic characterisation within local and neighbourhood planning.
  • Understanding Historic Buildings: Policy and Guidance for Local Planning Authorities Understanding Historic Buildings: Policy and Guidance for Local Planning Authorities
    Publication Date: 11 Jun 2008
    This document sets out the English Heritage policy on the investigation and recording of historic buildings within the English planning framework. It provides advice on how a specialist understanding of the significance of an historic building and of its constituent parts, can inform a development proposal or scheme of works and assist in the decision-making process.

Enabling Development and the Conservation of Heritage Assets is development contrary to established planning policy that is occasionally permitted because it brings public benefits that outweigh the harm that would be caused. It can be used to secure the future of heritage assets. An example might be the construction of new housing in part of the grounds of a former rural hospital in a particularly poor state of repair so that the main listed building can be appropriately restored.

This Guidance still stands as English Heritage’s position on Enabling Development. References to PPS5 Policy HE11 can now be replaced with NPPF paragraph 140 

The NPPF paragraph 140 supports the use of enabling development, and our guidance explains how to evaluate the amount of development needed and how to locate the development so as not to adversely affect the setting of heritage assets.

Setting Guidance: In 2011 English Heritage published The Setting of Heritage Assets to help practitioners deal with issues relating to the protection of the setting of designated assets when considering planning applications and development proposals. The document sets out guidance on managing change within the settings of heritage assets, including archaeological remains and historic buildings, sites, areas and landscapes. It explains how the significance of a heritage asset derives not only from its physical presence and historic fabric but also from its setting – the surroundings in which it is experienced.

  • Enabling development and the conservation of significant places Enabling development and the conservation of significant places
    Publication Date: 30 Sep 2008
    The Enabling Development Guidance concentrates on those areas of practice that are particular to enabling development - and by extension other proposals where financial viability is a key issue.
  • The Setting of Heritage Assets The Setting of Heritage Assets
    Publication Date: 20 Oct 2011
    This document sets out English Heritage guidance on managing change within the settings of heritage assets, including archaeological remains and historic buildings, sites, areas, and landscapes.

Guidance on Tall Buildings sets out how English Heritage evaluates proposals for tall buildings in our role as a planning statutory consultee, and how Design Council CABE assess tall buildings submitted to their design review. It can also be used to inform other design review at more local levels.

It offers advice on good practice in relation to tall buildings in the planning process. Local planning authorities can use it to inform policy making and to help evaluate planning applications for tall buildings where appropriate policies are not yet in place. The government has endorsed this guidance, which is capable of being a material consideration in the determination of planning applications.

  • Guidance on tall buildings 2007 Guidance on tall buildings 2007
    Publication Date: 16 Feb 2007
    English Heritage and CABE have produced a revised and updated version of their joint Guidance on Tall Buildings. Following a period of consultation, the final version was endorsed by Government on 26 July 2007.

World Heritage Sites have particular issues of setting and need special consideration in the planning system.

Other useful planning advice is available from:

The Planning Advisory Service (PAS) supports planners, enforcement officers, planning committee members and others involved in planning by sharing good practice and introducing new ideas. The online resource will provide links to training programmes and information on effectively managing change in the planning sector.

Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and Planning Aid England: There is an online planning resource to help RTPI members and others with an interest in the planning system including links to Planning Aid.

The Guide to Heritage Protection in England

We have written the most comprehensive online guide to the heritage protection system. The Guide to Heritage Protection in England contains 90 pages of textbook advice on how the law, policy and guidance that protects England's heritage assets works, with links to all the source documents.

It also contains a glossary of nearly 200 heritage terms of art authoritatively defined. The guide will be kept up-to-date with any changes in law and policy. We hope that this will become the starting point for all enquiries as to how the protection systems works.

The guide includes a page on planning and the historic environment.

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