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4

T H E B U I L D I N G C O N S E R VAT I O N D I R E C T O R Y 2 0 1 6

T W E N T Y T H I R D E D I T I O N

Foreword

B

Y THE TIME

this directory is published, if all goes

to plan, the

Historic Environment (Wales) Bill

will have passed into law. The bill contains a

number of measures that will put Wales in the vanguard

of heritage protection. It will, for example, create a

statutory register of historic parks and gardens, putting

them on a par with listed buildings. It will also extend

the definition of a scheduled monument to include

scatters of artefacts that are not based on a building or

structure, such as a battlefield or a prehistoric axe-

working site.

Most importantly, it will put historic environment

records (HERs) on a statutory footing. Local planning

authorities will be required to create, maintain and

make use of HERs in the planning and development

control process. They are likely to discharge this duty

by making use of the HERs that have been built up over

several decades by the four Welsh archaeological trusts

which, along with the National Monuments Record for

Wales maintained by the Royal Commission, constitute

a hugely important evidence base for making informed

planning decisions.

This is a measure that heritage campaigners have long wanted in other parts of the UK, so we feel a responsibility in Wales to make this work

and to demonstrate the value of statutory HERs so that others will see the benefits of adopting similar practices in due course.

Why does it matter whether HERs are statutory or not? Symbolically it is important because the historic environment will have to be on the

agenda whenever a planning application is being considered. The evidence derived from HERs will raise awareness of the impact of proposed

developments on the historic environment, something that has not always happened in past planning applications and decisions. Not that heritage

professionals have any desire to obstruct development: rather the aim is that developments should be designed to enhance the historic (and natural)

environment, rather than fighting it or destroying it.

In practical terms it matters because the Welsh government is making a commitment to provide the resources for an effective HER service.

The funding will be used to enhance the HERs and ensure that they are comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date and that they are performing the

function envisaged for them in the planning process.

But HERs are not just about planning. For many of us the potential for public participation in HERs is just as important. As a growing body of

information about the historic environment, HERs have enormous potential for people to find out more about the history of their family or their

community and the buildings and monuments that form the backdrop to their lives.

Undoubtedly we will be asked to demonstrate the impact of statutory HERs at some future date,

so we must get better at telling good news stories – for example by showcasing exciting examples of

constructive conservation, where the buildings and monuments cherished by communities have been

enhanced to make the most of their contribution to place-making and a sense of identity. Our dream

is that most developers, and not just the enlightened few, should eventually see the heritage as an

economic benefit and as an opportunity, not as a problem. We are not short of good examples, as the

pages of this directory testify: so let’s sing out and let the whole world know.

Christopher Catling

Secretary

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

Cae Canol Mawr in Ffestiniog, Merioneth has been dated to 1531–2 using dendrochronology. The house features

in the Royal Commission’s recent book

Discovering the Historic Houses of Snowdonia

, which was the result

of a partnership with the Dating Old Welsh Houses Group and involved 200 local volunteers in an ambitious

exercise to research the histories of 100 medieval houses in Snowdonia. (Photo: RCAHMW)