Planning Policy Statement 5: Planning for the Historic Environment (pps5) – only introduced in March 2010 – is crucial for archaeology: it sets out the principles by which planning authorities require archaeological work to respect the significance of all heritage assets (not just those with statutory protection) in advance of development.
pps5 was a significant distillation of the previous planning policy guidance notes, ppg15 and ppg16. Yet the proposed framework will reduce the text of pps5 still further. Inevitably there is concern that in an even shorter document, some of the key principles of pps5 will be lost. The heritage sector had generally welcomed pps5 (see feature page 25). The opportunities it provides are not always yet reflected in professional practice, but any weakening of its principles would be very damaging.
Thanks to the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group (APPAG), archaeologists now have far better connections with both the government and parliamentarians, and also with officials in Whitehall. This has ensured that organisations like the CBA and The Archaeology Forum have been able to make their thoughts heard about the proposed planning framework. We have been encouraged by John Penrose MP, the tourism and heritage minister, who clearly
Office and hangar at RAF Northolt (Middlesex), which housed Churchill’s personal aircraft during the second world war, recently listed by John Penrose understands the importance of the principles of pps5. He has said he would not allow any lessening of protection in the NPPF. Meetings with John Howell MP, the architect of many of the government’s planning reforms (and a one time archaeology student: see Spoilheap Jul/Aug 2010/113), were also welcome opportunities to ensure that no key provisions from pps5 were lost in the new framework.
The localism bill has been debated in the House of Lords. This has allowed the chairman of APPAG, Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, to raise concerns about the protection of archaeological evidence through the planning system. He also noted the importance of local authority historic environment services, who advise planning authorities about proposed development, drawing partly on local Historic Environment Records (HERs). With cutbacks in public funding the future of archaeology advisors in local
At the House of Lords with Lord Renfrew (right), historian and broadcaster Michael Wood (centre) and archaeologist Peter Addyman government is uncertain. There are already indications of the pressures. The archaeology service in Merseyside has closed (although access to the HER has been restored), and that in South Yorkshire faced calls for a 50% budget cut (though after local and national pressure this has been reduced to 15% for now). Other local authorities have quietly opted out of their service, and are receiving no professional advice on archaeology.
The government was not sympathetic to Lord Renfrew’s amendment, which would have required developers to consult the HER in advance of submitting any development proposal, and would have placed a statutory duty on local authorities to maintain or have access to an HER for this purpose. The government considered that this would have burdened developers. The case will be pressed again in future debates on the localism bill, as this is an attempt to protect the current system, not impose additional regulation.
The NPPF has now been published for consultation (see communities.gov.uk). It is clear that the representations made by the CBA and others have been largely heeded, but there are still concerns about tightening up some wording to ensure that heritage protection is maintained. It may prove that developers’ responsibilities for archaeological work are reduced, or that local authority capacity to place appropriate conditions on planning applications is endangered. In either case, the CBA and others would then have no choice but to propose a large number of nationally important archaeological sites for scheduling, to ensure their statutory protection. Meanwhile, in Scotland a new Planning Advice Note on Archaeology & Planning has recently been issued. It will be instructive to compare the new regulations, which should be very similar in approach and outcome to those in England. Furthermore, a heritage bill is now promised in Wales for 2014–15, presumably underpinned by new planning policies. Even with reduced resources, the CBA and our partners continue to keep a close eye on developments across the UK to act as the champion for the public interest in our archaeological heritage.
Mike Heyworth is the director of the CBA