The headline is that there are very few changes in terms of the approach to and wording of the Draft NPPF, as it relates to built heritage considerations. But there are some important and subtle changes, some of which have caused headaches since 2012.
It is notable that the opening paragraph, now numbered 182, makes very clear the even greater importance being placed on a wider range of heritage assets, the introduction now including specific and unequivocal reference to “sites and buildings of local historic value”. This continues to suggest a wider consideration of non-designated assets through the implementation of this policy.
Importantly, the Draft brings the potential removal of the wording relating to “optimum viable use” from the current paragraph 134. This was already being used by LPAs to defend against changes of use to heritage assets, including conversion of listed buildings and the use of land within Conservation Areas (in the latter case where it could be stated by an LPA that existing open conditions were the ‘optimum viable use’). Removal of this wording will concentrate minds back onto impacts, harm and benefit of proposals.
Existing paragraph 132 has been shortened to remove rhetoric and now includes the restated importance of “great weight should be given to the asset’s conservation” but with the added line “irrespective of the degree of potential harm to its significance.” This additional wording suggests a toning further towards the desirable objection of preservation and reflects recent case law which tends towards the balance in that favour.
With these changes, we can anticipate:
- further inclusion of non-designated assets in the consideration of planning applications,
- continued or increased (but not decreased) favour of conservation;
- with the removal of the ‘optimum viable use’ reference, an emphasis on addressing tangible impacts and benefits which might favour change of use.
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