2007 Yearbook

INSTITUTE OF HISTORIC BUILDING CONSERVATION YEARBOOK 2007 22 I N R E V I E W protection of the historic environment and investment in its maintenance, repair and adaptation that the values and benefits of historic buildings and places can continue to be realised • adopting a ‘polluter pays’ principle to information standards in the built environment, comparable to that used to pay for archaeology in developments, would penalise owners for improving and enhancing assets. The publication of these principles was timely, as existing guidance needed updating to reflect properly the breadth of values and significance attached to the historic environment. However, while they made many demands on the management of the assets, such as the recording and documenting of change, there was little recognition of the need to link these issues with resources. LISTED BUILDING CASEWORK In May the institute responded to English Heritage’s Listed Buildings Casework consultation. In general, we supported the objective of the consultation, which is to simplify the process by which listed building consent applications and appeals are determined. As more than 90 per cent of all buildings are listed at Grade II, the proposed changes to listed building consent applications, appeals and enforcement appeals would be unlikely to have a significant impact on local planning authorities. However, the proposals could assist in reducing the time taken to reach a decision on appeals relating to Grade I and Grade II* properties, and so make potential administrative savings. The institute noted that the Planning Inspectorate should be able to fulfil the proposed role and decide appeals involving Grade I and Grade II* listed buildings. However, concern was registered about the lack of inspectors with the specialist listed building knowledge required to deal with often highly sensitive and complex issues involving the historic built environment. Staff with appropriate conservation expertise would need to be employed to advise the inspectors, or to operate as inspectors, where cases dealt with listed building consent and enforcement appeals involving heritage and/or design issues. The institute recognised that there is, however, unlikely to be a significant reduction in the time taken on listed building consent applications as compared to the current referral arrangements involving the notification of English Heritage. A key point in the consultation was the meaning of ‘no objection’ by English Heritage. The institute suggested that this be considered further as the standard English Heritage response often actually refers to ‘not intervening’ or ‘not intervening but offering the following observations’. RURAL ISSUES The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) consultation for the Rural Development Programme for England (2007–2013) set out principles with which the institute broadly agreed. The response highlighted how traditional buildings of the farmstead shaped the character of the countryside, and for too long have been allowed to disappear without notice. This loss is most regrettable, as they, and their context, often represent the most tangible evidence of farming activities in previous centuries. This kind of historic environment is the very backbone of the rural landscape, and the institute made the point of welcoming any initiatives to conserve this most important feature of the countryside’s character. The institute urged Defra to recognise these facts and to instigate more scrutiny of change, constructing an evidence base of the use of land and buildings, holding by holdings, to include the house and farm buildings, and covering in particular diversification and new uses. In the long term, this could have an important impact on the historic landscape. However, there were issues that the institute did not favour, particularly the abandonment of land. Positive management, albeit in a low-key manner in line with age- old traditional practice, is the best approach to England’s unique upland landscape and this was emphasised in our response. PDG AND PLANNING The consultation on the proposed allocations criteria of the Planning Delivery Grant (PDG) for 2007/08 provided an opportunity to express key issues that relate to managing the historic environment in the planning process. The institute welcomed the PDG as recognition that planning functions must be properly resourced. However, the allocation of grant could be more closely linked to the workloads of the local authorities, the key role BVPI 219 will play in underpinning LDF ‘soundness’ and, with reference to the historic environment, the complexity of listed building consent applications and planning applications for works to properties in conservation areas. This consultation provided the opportunity to highlight the fact that the quality of the historic environment depends on the quality of the delivery of a service and that such a service cannot be properly assessed through quantitative indicators alone. New grant should be based on employing specialised design and conservation skills, community engagement best practices, member training (in particular development control committee member training) and maintaining quality services. It was further suggested that the PDG should also encompass buildings at risk surveys which incorporate clear timed action plans for those buildings found to be at risk. There is potential for a much wider and quality-oriented scheme be introduced, including historic environment and design performance. JOIN THE CONSULTATIONS PANEL Last year was a very active time for consultations, and while they bring more work for all those generous volunteers who give their time to the institute to further its work, they do also provide a perfect platform for presenting the institute’s philosophy of conservation, and for integrating the practical knowledge and skills of our members into wider policy development. If you would like to join the panel, do contact the national office direct. You can help shape the future of how we care for our historic places. Karen Holyoake, consultations@ihbc.org.uk