Changes to Planning Legislation and The Historic Environment

As RESCUE members will be aware, during 2009, the Government launched a draft of its proposed changes to the archaeology and listed buildings’ planning policies documents. Currently, these are dealt with separately by Planning Policy Guidance Notes 16 and 15 respectively. The Government consultation draft proposed an amalgamation of these two documents into a single Historic Environment policy, PPS15.

The consultation received nearly 500 responses from a wide range of organisations. Recently, the chairmen of the Select Committees of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and the Department of Communities and Local Government, wrote to the Rt. Hon. John Healey MP, the Minister for Planning, suggesting that given the weight of responses and the range of concerns that had been raised, it was their opinion that a second round of stakeholder consultation would be required when a revised text was produced, in order to reassure both stakeholders and the two Committees that the Government was taking their concerns seriously.  The alternative position was for the two Committees to scrutinise the revised text through oral evidence.

It has been suggested to RESCUE that there are in reality, only plans for limited consultation with stakeholder organisations, and that due to the lack of time before this Parliament ends, the two Committees have decided that such a response will suffice. RESCUE contends that such an approach is WHOLLY INADEQUATE. The Government should be aware that following the publication of a revised text of PPS15, we expect that the opportunity to be given for all interested parties, both organisations and individuals, to express their views in the same way as was given earlier in the process.

This document will almost certainly influence the direction and implementation of heritage protection for a considerable period of time. We believe that it is unacceptable for a potentially ill-considered or deficient version of the document should be rushed through into practice, without the necessary scrutiny by the relevant non-Governmental experts or the appropriate consultation with the wider Heritage sector, as was undertaken previously. We also believe that it is unacceptable for the appropriate Select Committee scrutiny to be waived, in order to accommodate the Government’s admission of an inadequate timetable for the process of implementing this policy properly.

We call upon the Government to provide assurances that full consultative procedures will be implemented following the publication of the second draft of this document, to ensure that this important policy revision does not result in the implementation of a document that will ultimately cause damage to our important Heritage legacy.

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