The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill has recently completed its second reading in the House of Commons. It doesn’t much sound like one planners need to be worried about but actually it includes several proposed changes to the heritage planning regime. The stated aim of the proposals is “to improve the operation of heritage consent regimes without reducing necessary protections”.
The first proposal in the draft legislation is to merge the planning and conservation area consent regimes. Proposals for demolition in a conservation area would in the future be considered as part of the application for planning permission, rather than a separate conservation area consent application. This should cut some unnecessary administration out of the system.
The Bill also proposes to allow Listed Building entries to clearly define the extent of special interest in a listed building providing owners with certainty as to what can be changed and what needs to be protected in listed buildings. This extends to specifically excluding parts of a building from the listing as can structures fixed to or within the curtilage. All this would give welcome clarity to listed building owners who are often obliged to make listed building consent applications for innocuous works to say a curtilage building of no historic value. The question is will anyone really go through and assess each of the 375,000 existing listed buildings in sufficient detail as to determine what is and isn’t worthy?
The draft legislation also extends the scope for making an application for a Certificate of Immunity from Listing. At present they can only be obtained when planning permission is being sought, or has been granted. The proposed changes will enable applications to be made at any time for such a Certificate.
Finally the Bill also allows for the introduction of “Heritage Partnership Agreements” between the owners of listed buildings and local planning authorities. Such an Agreement may grant listed building consent for specified alteration or extension works to a listed building, but cannot be used to grant consent for a listed building to be demolished. The purpose of the Agreements is to enable the owners of large estates or complex sites to manage small-scale works without it being necessary to make many individual applications.
We will have to wait and see whether the proposed changes have the desired effect.