Protection in Britain
Hertfordshire: a Grade II* listed building in a village conservation
area; the supposedly 17th-century stocks and whipping post
have been individually listed (at Grade II) since 1952. (Photo:
the excitement and debate surrounding the government's recently
published White Paper for England and Wales, Heritage Protection
for the 21st Century, it seems timely to offer a brief account
of the evolution of the current system for protecting the country's
historic built environment.
long been a concern for protecting the remains of the past, from
the first stirrings of antiquarian interest in the 16th century
following the dissolution of the monasteries, through the achievements
of men like John Aubrey and William Stukeley in the 17th and 18th
centuries, to the archaeological work carried out in the 19th
and early 20th centuries, much of which was by amateurs equally
at home in excavating a Bronze Age round barrow or establishing
the phases of construction of a medieval parish church.
expressed itself in the writing of several notable figures in
the Victorian period, including John Ruskin and William Morris.
Official recognition followed in the Ancient Monuments Protection
Act 1882, a piece of legislation now so venerated that it might
be considered almost on a par with the 70 or so mainly prehistoric
monuments it was intended to protect.
Further versions of this
act, the latest of which is the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological
Areas Act 1979, form the basis for the protection and management
of archaeological sites and monuments to this day. There are currently
approximately 18,300 scheduled monuments in England and Wales.
of 'listing' buildings appeared rather later than 'scheduling'
monuments (although for some reason a number of town halls and
bridges were protected under ancient monuments legislation in
the 1930s). The forerunner, which was hurriedly compiled during
the Second World War, was a list of buildings considered so important
that they should be reconstructed in the event of bomb damage.
Town and Country Planning Act 1947 then formalised the process
and the first survey of listed buildings was carried out by the
then Ministry of Housing and Local Government in the late 1940s
and '50s. This survey, undertaken at a time when petrol rationing
was still in force, was found no longer fit for its purpose by
the '60s and was superseded by further surveys in the '70s and
'80s, which like the original survey sought to identify and protect
the best of England's buildings, ancient and modern.
Resurvey of Listed Buildings of the 1980s (launched by the energetic
Michael Heseltine following the infamous demolition of the Firestone
Factory over a bank holiday weekend in 1980, days before its intended
listing) saw the number of listed buildings increase to an estimated
total of 500,000 in England today. However, precise data is limited
because it is not known how many of the 370,000 list entries in
this country include several buildings, such as an entire terrace.
One side effect of this resurvey was the re-involvement of archaeologists
(the author included) in the study of 'standing buildings'. Since
then there have been a number of 'thematic' surveys, including
those of hospitals and military sites and, of course, individual
'spot-listing' applications (many of them generated by members
of the public) continue to be made.
In Wales, as in England, the
original Lists of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic
Interest were drawn up in the 1950s and by the early '80s were
considered inadequate. Here the resurvey
started later and was only concluded at the end of 2005. The result
was an increase in the number of listed buildings from about 9,000
in 1984 to approximately 30,000. For many, this resurvey came too
late, resulting in the rash of plastic windows and grim pebbledash
renders that have afflicted so many historic buildings in the
past 20 years or so. (Those affected include many already listed
buildings, where some poorly staffed or uninterested local authorities
have seemed unwilling to intervene.) Conversely, a lowering of
the importance threshold has led to the statutory protection of
some buildings that would not be considered 'listable' in England.
AREAS AND 'LOCAL' LISTING
for protecting historic areas rather than individual buildings
or monuments owes its origins to the Civic Amenities Act 1967,
which enabled the designation of conservation areas. There are
now over 9,000 in England alone. An increasing number of these
have been accompanied by conservation area character appraisals
and management plans. (Present English Heritage guidance would
have it that no new designations should be made without carrying
out a proper appraisal first.)
In recent years there has also
been a growing tendency for local authorities to compile 'local
lists', a tradition stretching back to the inclusion of non-statutorily
protected 'Grade III' buildings on the old lists of the 1950s
to '70s. However, rightly or wrongly, this confers little meaningful
protection on the buildings so identified, at least outside conservation
areas. Indeed, it is striking that local lists are often most
extensive in areas where the statutory lists are shortest: councils
with the most statutorily listed buildings are least likely to
draw up and maintain local lists.
In addition to scheduled ancient
monuments, large numbers of archaeological sites of 'local' importance
are included on Historic Environment Records, which are usually
held at county level.
TYPES OF DESIGNATION
As well as
protecting individual buildings and archaeological sites or monuments
through listing and scheduling respectively, and safeguarding
historic areas (both in town and country) through conservation
area designation, the concept of the historic environment has
grown in recent years to include historic battlefields, maritime
wreck sites and World Heritage Sites. Selected parks and gardens
(of all types and periods) are included on registers compiled
by English Heritage and Cadw and, while the inclusion of a park
or garden on the registers provides no statutory protection in
itself, it is recognised that the impact of development on a registered
park or garden is a material consideration in planning terms.
are listed, permission known as listed building consent, is needed
for works that affect the 'character' of the building as a building
of 'special architectural or historic interest'. It should be
noted that once a building is listed, the listing extends to the
whole building (irrespective of its grading). This means that
the interior as well as the exterior is given statutory protection,
as are structures attached to the 'principal' building and free-standing
structures within the curtilage, provided (in most cases) that
they pre-date 1948.
Most works involving structural alteration
will require listed building consent, but it is important to realise
that some 'repairs' affecting historic fabric will also need consent.
The penalties for carrying out unauthorised work (which is a criminal
offence) can be severe, resulting in a fine or imprisonment. Enforcement
notices can also be served to rectify the effects of unauthorised
In conservation areas, conservation area consent is required
for the 'total or substantial' demolition of the great majority
of unlisted buildings, while in determining planning applications
in or adjoining conservation areas local planning authorities
are obliged to pay 'special regard to the desirability of preserving
or enhancing the character and appearance of the area'.
in England and Wales operate their own internal systems of control,
and do not have to apply for listed building consent and conservation
area consent. This so-called 'ecclesiastical exemption' dates
from the 1913 iteration of the Ancient Monuments Act which, following
a lively debate in the House of Lords, recognised the Church of
England's right to control development through its own legislative
system of 'faculty jurisdiction'. The exemption was extended to
non-conformist churches, informally at first, then acquiring a
legal basis in 1971. Since The Ecclesiastical Exemption (Listed
Buildings and Conservation Areas) Order 1994 the exemption has
been limited to the churches and chapels of the Church of England,
the Church in Wales, the Roman Catholic Church, Baptist Union
Church, Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. However,
external works which materially affect the external appearance
of a church (and this need not necessarily be limited to extensions)
require planning permission, in which case the impact on the character
and setting of the listed building may well be the determining
Hill, Smethwick, West Midlands: a proposal to include this
street in a conservation area could encourage much needed
On a day-to-day basis, the protection of archaeological
sites and monuments (at both a local and national level) is carried
out through the application of government policy contained in PPG16: Planning and Archaeology (1990). For historic
buildings and areas the equivalent in England is PPG15: Planning
and the Historic Environment (1994) and in Wales the equivalents
are the Welsh Office circulars; 60/96 Planning and the Historic
Environment: Archaeology and 61/96 Planning and the Historic Environment:
Historic Buildings and Conservation Areas.
The English PPGs and
Welsh circulars in effect explain how the relevant acts should
be applied (the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas)
Act 1990 and the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act
1979 respectively). However, the hierarchy has changed slightly
in Wales since devolution, and the key policies of the Welsh Assembly
government are now given in Planning Policy Wales (2002) which
includes a 10-page section of particular importance, 'Conserving
the Historic Environment'. The circulars remain in use despite
preceding this policy document, and are referred to in it, because
they provide more detailed guidance.
Local plan policy and local
development frameworks of the local authority also play an integral
part in the process, particularly at appeal.
Most district councils
in England now have conservation officers, and many have teams
of three or four. Archaeological advice is still usually provided
at county level. In unitary authorities (which combine the functions
of county and district councils) there are often combined heritage
teams. The degree of staff coverage is greater in England than
At a national
level, further guidance is provided in Wales by Cadw and by English
Heritage (EH) in England. Taking England first, EH is a statutory
consultee on all listed building consent applications affecting
Grade I and II* listed buildings, as well as on all applications
affecting the 'total' or 'substantial' demolition of those in
Grade II. Local authorities must also consult EH on all planning
applications affecting the setting of Grade I and II* listed buildings,
and on certain forms of development in conservation areas (see
DCMS Circular 01/2001). However, unlike LBC applications on which
English Heritage is consulted, in most cases these can be determined
In Wales, Cadw largely fills the role occupied by English
Heritage in England, although it has the ability to 'call in'
any listed building consent application, whatever the grade of
the building, whether or not any form of demolition is involved.
However, Cadw is increasingly willing to relinquish this power
in those local authority areas where historic building control
is well managed.
amenity societies, which comprise the Ancient Monuments Society,
the Council for British Archaeology, the Society for the Protection
of Ancient Buildings, the Georgian Group, the Victorian Society
and the 20th Century Society, are all statutory consultees on
applications involving even the partial demolition of a listed
building (whatever its grade), a remit that also extends to Wales
(see DCMS Circular 01/2005). Likewise, the Garden History Society
must be consulted on any planning application affecting a registered
park or garden in either country.
Finally, brief mention must
be made of the White Paper, which in the spirit of a system that
EH's chief executive Simon Thurley has said should be 'collaborative
and collusive rather than adversarial and confrontational' has
three main themes at its heart. These are a 'unified approach
to the historic environment' (including a single system of 'registering'
to replace listing and scheduling), 'maximising opportunities
for inclusion and involvement' and 'placing the historic environment
at the heart of the planning system'.
At first sight these well-meaning words seem entirely typical of the current government's
'reforming' approach to the historic
environment and to planning in general, but simultaneously one
is left wondering whether much is changing at all and if in fact
the wheel has simply turned full circle.
This is because,
although the whole concept of what constitutes the 'historic environment'
has changed beyond recognition since 1882, as have our cultural
aspirations (and the language used to express them), one of the
principal aims of the White Paper reforms is to bring archaeology
and historic buildings (procedurally, largely dealt with separately
since the time of the 1947 act) back under the same umbrella.
Does this mean that, albeit unwittingly, the likes of Ruth Kelly
and Tessa Jowell have more in common with the eclectic antiquarian
tastes and pursuits of Victorian parsons and other gentlemen amateur
archaeologists than they might imagine?
protection and control system in Scotland closely parallels that
in England and Wales but there are some differences and, over
time, there is likely to be further divergence.
As in England
and Wales, the basis for the protection and management of Scotland's
8,000 or so scheduled ancient monuments is the Ancient Monuments
and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, which places a duty on the Scottish
Ministers to compile, maintain and publish a schedule of such
items. The process of scheduling and control of works affecting
scheduled monuments is undertaken on behalf of the Scottish Ministers
by Historic Scotland. Scheduled monuments are always of 'national
importance' and the criteria and guidance for their selection
as such have been published in Scottish Historic Environment Policy
2 - Scheduling: protecting Scotland's nationally important monuments.
Dock, Lerwick, Shetland; a category B-listed historic dock
and boat store which has recently been restored by Groves
Raines Architects, Edinburgh
law providing for the listing of buildings and their protection
is the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland)
Act 1997. There are around 47,000 listed buildings in Scotland,
although it should be noted that the national preference for tenement
living means that there are, in fact, many more affected properties.
Listing is undertaken by Historic Scotland on behalf of the Scottish
Ministers in accordance with criteria which have evolved over
time (and are to be formalised in a forthcoming Scottish Historic
Environment Policy document). All listed buildings are assigned
to one of three categories according to their relative importance:
Category A, Category B or Category C(s).
The concept of the 'local
list' has never found favour with Scottish local authorities,
although some conservation officers may maintain informal schedules
of potentially listable properties for possible action under Building
Preservation Notice procedures or for forwarding to Historic Scotland
for future consideration.
Historic Scotland is constantly adding
new entries to the list, whether on a one-off basis or through
programmed surveys by theme or geographical area.
The 1979 Act
also makes provision for the designation of conservation areas,
which it defines as being 'areas of special architectural or historic
interest, the character of which it is desirable to preserve or
enhance'. Local authorities are responsible for the designation
of such areas, ideally as part of the local plan process, and for bringing forward policies and initiatives for their preservation and enhancement. Scottish Executive guidance in Planning Advice Note 71 Conservation Area Management assists local authorities in preparing appraisals and management plans for designated and potential areas. There are currently over 600 conservation areas in Scotland.
GARDENS AND DESIGNED LANDSCAPES
Gardens and designed landscapes can be defined as grounds that are consciously laid out for artistic effect, and usually contain architectural features, trees, shrubs, flowers, water features, lawns, woodland and parkland. Since 1988 Historic Scotland has published an Inventory of such sites, which are recognised as being of national importance. A new Scottish Historic Environment Policy document outlining the Scottish Ministers’ policies for gardens and designed landscapes in respect of their identification and protection, the management of change, and how Historic Scotland will implement these policies is currently in preparation.
OTHER IMPORTANT SITES AND SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Most, but not all, local authorities in Scotland have access to an archaeology service including sites and monument record information for their areas. Local authorities and the public can also use the extensive holdings of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of
Scotland and their web-based information resource, Pastmap (www.pastmap.
org.uk). This provides mapped information on all the sites, buildings
and places recorded in the national database maintained by the
commission, all of Scotland's listed buildings and scheduled monuments,
gardens and designed landscapes and the sites in the local records.
In the case of many of the older historic towns, the Burgh Survey
series of publications from Historic Scotland provides valuable
historical and archaeological information of value to the planning
buildings include a wide variety of built structures, from
houses to telephone boxes and monuments. The Dugald Stewart
Monument shown here (William Playfair, 1831), which is spectacularly
sited on the skyline of Calton Hill, Edinburgh, is listed
of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 provides
that the Scottish Ministers' prior written consent must be obtained
for any works which alter or have a direct affect on the fabric
of a scheduled monument. The necessary scheduled monument consent
is administered by Historic Scotland on the Ministers' behalf.
Local authorities are also obliged to give due consideration and
consult with Historic Scotland where the setting of a scheduled
monument is affected by development.
Where buildings are listed,
listed building consent, is needed for works that affect the 'character'
of the building as a building of 'special architectural or historic
interest'. It should be noted that once a building is listed,
the listing extends to the whole building (irrespective of its
category). This means that the interior as well as the exterior
is given statutory protection, as are structures attached to the
building and free-standing structures within the curtilage, provided
(in most cases) that they pre-date 1 July 1948. Under the terms
of the 1997 Act, all places of worship in ecclesiastical use in
Scotland are exempt from the need to apply for listed building
consent, although there is currently a voluntary arrangement by
which certain denominations have agreed to apply for consent for
works proposed to the exterior of their churches.
involving structural alteration will require listed building consent,
but it is important to realise that some 'repairs' and even some
seemingly minor changes affecting historic fabric may also need
consent. Applications for listed building consent are made to
the planning authority. Local authorities should also give due
consideration and follow certain procedures when considering planning
applications that affect the setting of listed buildings.
areas, conservation area consent from the local authority is required
for the demolition of buildings. In determining planning applications
in or adjoining conservation areas, planning authorities are obliged
to give due consideration to the desirability of preserving or
enhancing the character and appearance of the area and in many
cases special planning policies and additional controls may be
When dealing with planning proposals for works affecting
inventoried gardens and designed landscapes, local authorities
are obliged to give due consideration to their qualities and setting
and to consult with Historic Scotland and
others prior to making a determination.
stone circle, Isle of Lewis
The penalties for carrying
out unauthorised works to scheduled monuments, listed buildings
and conservation areas (which may be a criminal offence) can be
severe, resulting in a fine or imprisonment. Enforcement notices
can also be served to regularise or rectify the effects of unauthorised
On a day-to-day basis, the protection of archaeological
sites and monuments (at both a local and national level) is carried
out through the application of Scottish Executive policy as set
out in National Planning Policy Guidance 18 Planning and the Historic
Environment. NNPG 18 recognises that social and economic factors
contribute significantly to the cultural heritage and help define
the character of the historic environment, and in particular it:
- outlines national policy on the historic environment which
local authorities should consider in formulating and assessing
- explains how the protection of the historic environment and
the promotion of opportunities for change can contribute to
- identifies a range of planning action designed to achieve
conservation objectives, including implications for development
plans and development control.
complements NPPG5 Archaeology and Planning, which sets out the
role of the planning system in protecting ancient monuments and
archaeological sites and landscapes.
Starting with the publication
of Scotland's Historic Environment in 2007, these and other relevant
ministerial policy documents are being supplemented by a series
of Scottish Historic Environment Policy documents, several of
which are mentioned above. For most day-to-day casework, local
authorities and applicants refer to Historic Scotland's comprehensive
Memorandum of Guidance on Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas, which is available on-line or for purchase at a reasonable cost.
Local plan policy and local development frameworks also play an
integral part in the process, particularly at appeal, and several
Scottish councils have adopted, or are preparing, specific heritage
strategies which bring together interests across the authority
including museums, local history and planning. The obligation
on Scottish authorities to prepare cultural strategies is further
stimulating new, joined-up working on heritage matters.
national amenity societies, which contribute to the identification,
protection and control of the historic environment, include the
Scottish Civic Trust (which also maintains the national Buildings
at Risk register), the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland,
the Council for Scottish Archaeology and the Garden History Society
The reforms being followed in England and Wales are
not proposed for Scotland, although there are a variety of views
as to whether reform of legislation is also required north of
the border and what form this might take. A recent report to the
then Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport by the Historic Environment
Advisory Council for Scotland (HEACS) made recommendations on
the matter. The minister's initial response has been published
and both HEACS and Historic Scotland are currently gathering further
views from interested parties, including local authorities. The
minister's final response is awaited.
to the sources mentioned in the text, the following sources provide
additional information on both the historical development and
current system of heritage protection:
- J Fawcett
(ed), The Future of the Past: Attitudes to Conservation 1174-1974,
Thames & Hudson, London, 1976
- W Kennett,
Preservation, Temple Smith, London, 1972
- C Mynors,
Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas & Monuments, 4th edition,
Sweet & Maxwell, London, 2006
- R Sweet, Antiquaries:
The Discovery of the Past in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Hambledon and
London, London, 2004
maintains a large catalogue of publications relating to all aspects
of conservation (some free) which can be downloaded from:
article is reproduced from The Building Conservation Directory, 2007
Update, September 2012
Recently there have been several significant changes in UK government planning guidance and policy.
In England Planning Policy Guidance Note 15: Conservation of the Historic Environment (PPG15, 1994) and Planning Policy Guidance Note 16: Archaeology and Planning (PPG16, 1990) have been cancelled by the Government. Initially replaced by Planning Policy Statement 5 (PPS5) in March 2010, current policy guidance for England is now given in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) issued in March 2012. Further guidance is proposed, but in the meantime the guide which originally accompanied PPS5 remains in force - see PPS5 Historic Environment Planning Practice Guide.
In Scotland the principal statutory guidance on policy is now Scottish historic environment policy (SHEP), which was published in December 2011, with subsidiary guidance given in Historic Scotland’s Managing Change leaflets. These documents together replace the Memorandum of Guidance on Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas published in 1998.
IHBC is a director of CgMs Consulting and was formerly Conservation
Officer of South Oxfordshire District Council. He has also
worked for English Heritage and Cadw on the resurveys of
listed buildings in England and Wales.
EYDMANN PhD MRTPI IHBC is a conservation officer with
West Lothian Council.
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