The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act

An appraisal of the new heritage measures

Sarah Buckingham, Richard Morrice and Craig Broadwith

The red brick and concrete facade of Falmer House: a large open quadrangle is visible through the high central arch
Falmer House at the University of Sussex: designed by Sir Basil Spence in the early 1960s, the building is one of only two educational buildings in the UK to be Grade I listed. Proposals for a listed building heritage partnership agreement covering this and other listed buildings at the university are under way and should give the university greater flexibility in the management of its buildings.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (ERR) was a veritable leviathan of statute, covering issues as diverse as agricultural workers and whistleblowing, copyright, competition, compensation, and other areas where the government felt the need to prod protagonists into growth-creating activity. You could have been forgiven for not noticing, nestled in the belly of the beast, the provisions relating to heritage, yet these include the most radical changes to the management of listed buildings in England since listed building consent (LBC) itself was introduced in 1968.

Although all the heritage measures fit the government’s deregulatory mission, some go beyond that to facilitate a very different approach to the regulation of change. Listed building heritage partnership agreements (LBHPAs), local listed building consent orders (LLBCOs) and national listed building consent orders all introduce alternative mechanisms for granting listed building consent, whereby pre-negotiated packages of works of alteration and extension to listed buildings can be given long-term consent. Through these, local planning authorities, and in some instances the secretary of state, will be able to deal with predictable, repetitive works to listed buildings over time through a single consent rather than a series of applications. The aim is to reduce red tape without harming the historic environment and, reassuringly, the duty to have special regard to the desirability of preserving special interest remains.

These changes are underpinned by changes to the listing system allowing the identification at the point of designation of parts or features of a building, structures attached to it or in its curtilage, which need not be treated as listed, as they do not possess special interest. Overall, the package of reforms reflects a developing emphasis on distinguishing between interventions that are considered routine and those that are truly significant, and on encouraging pro-active work on the part of regulatory bodies to make this distinction much clearer. They also begin to redefine the relationship between local planning authorities and English Heritage and those who own and manage listed buildings, many of whom are knowledgeable and responsible enough to be partners in the process rather than simply recipients of handed-down decisions. The challenges ahead for the whole heritage sector are not only to test and roll out the mechanics of this change, but also to adapt to this less adversarial, more co-operative culture.

Heritage partnership agreements covering a listed building or related group of listed buildings require strong collaborative working between the local planning authority and owner to reach consensus on what is most significant about the building, and how this may be addressed in long-term packages of work consented through the agreement. Practical benefits will include reducing the occasions when applications for LBC are required; increasing the prospect of success for any additional LBC applications which may still be required; and creating certainty over future plans for the building(s). Thus owners and local authorities stand to gain as trust is developed between them, risk is reduced and savings are made in both time and resources.

  Derelict airfield buildings
  Stow Maries in Essex, the most complete World War I airfield in Britain: a listed building heritage partnership agreement will facilitate a programme of repairs by volunteers to the Grade II* listed huts.

Used together, LBHPAs and the subsequent ‘certificates of lawfulness of works’ have the potential to reduce significantly the need for separate LBC applications for a given building or group of buildings, as Case Study 1 (below) demonstrates. Certificates of Lawfulness of Works, which were also introduced in the ERR Act, are a simple mechanism allowing the owner of a property to seek written assurance from the relevant local planning authority that LBC will not be required for proposed works to a listed building because they do not affect its special interest.
They mirror the Certificates of Lawful Use or Development already available in the planning system.

Local listed building consent orders may be issued pro-actively by the local planning authority, and are likely to be of most use covering groups of similar or related buildings in multiple ownership, where predictable, routinely consented works are commonly carried out across the group. They have the potential to establish consistent approaches to issues of maintenance, repair or minor alteration, to increase certainty over the aspirations and requirements of all parties, and to save time and resources for owners and local planning authorities alike. They may also be more ambitious in scope, driving other changes, such as the regeneration of Little Germany, Bradford (see Case Study 2 below).

The University of Sussex

Sir Basil Spence’s University of Sussex was the first of the new wave of UK universities founded in the 1960s, receiving its Royal Charter in August 1961. Sitting in semi-rural downland it includes a library, lecture rooms for arts and sciences, a non-denominational place of worship, an arts centre and Falmer House, the university’s social centre. All are articulated in red brick and concrete with hollow vaults, concrete beams, arches and fins.

The red-brick cylindrical forms of Spence's Gardner Arts Centre
The Gardner Arts Centre at the University of Sussex, one of eight listed buildings on campus

These original university buildings, which make up the heart of the campus, were given listed building status in 1993. In total there are eight listed buildings on campus, one at Grade I and the other seven at Grade II*. Falmer House is one of only two educational buildings in the UK to be Grade I listed in recognition of its exceptional interest.

Proposals for a listed building heritage partnership agreement covering the eight Grade I and Grade II* listed buildings at the University of Sussex are progressing well. Developing out of 20 years’ experience with management guidelines which converted easily into a non-statutory HPA, the LBHPA is a natural progression which will give the university greater certainty and flexibility in the management of its buildings.

Like the management guidelines that preceded them, the LBHPA is relatively brief and workmanlike. It is divided into two parts, with several annexes. The first lists the parties to it, and gives a brief statement of significance, followed by the works consented under the agreement and the certificates of lawful proposed works which it also details. Part 2 gives the terms of the LBHPA, its period – currently proposed as ten years with reviews in the fourth and ninth years – and the basis of the agreement (including review and modification, records and revocation).

Part 1 of the agreement also categorises the work:

  • Type 1 works, which are de minimis (minor works such as cleaning or routine maintenance) and would not usually require LBC (and are therefore not the subject of certificates of lawful proposed works)
  • Type 2A works, which have been granted listed building consent under the terms of the LBHPA
  • Type 2B works, which are subject to certificates of lawfulness of proposed works
  • Type 3 works, which need LBC but which do not currently fall within this LBHPA
  • Emergency works, which may be carried out outside the LBHPA, subject to a list of those undertaken being submitted annually to the partners.

The partners to the LBHPA have long worked relatively flexibly and there is no intention to try to cover all possible eventualities in the LBHPA, especially as experience has shown that buildings and spaces can pass out of use relatively quickly. The chemistry laboratories which Spence designed, for example, are now almost totally redundant, while the university’s overriding need is now for computer rooms. The watchwords for the LBHPA are therefore partnership, brevity and flexibility. With these, certainty and a reduction in unnecessary process should continue to be possible.


Little Germany, Bradford English Heritage and Bradford Metropolitan District Council have worked as partners on a number of initiatives to foster the regeneration of Bradford’s city centre and inner city suburbs. Since 2012 the Little Germany area has been identified for special attention. It abuts the stalled Westfield Broadway retail development and its unique townscape has suffered some decline as a result of the hiatus on the neighbouring site.

  Imposing stone facade and portico of a Victorian office building in the Little Germany merchant quarter, Bradford
  Bradford’s Little Germany was established in the mid-19th century by German merchants who were keen to forge links with the city’s textile industry. A local listed building consent order, which could be in place by the spring of 2015, would simplify and speed up the approval process, helping to bring these buildings back into beneficial reuse.

Little Germany is arguably the most impressive merchant quarter in Yorkshire. It developed in the mid-19th century as a result of Bradford’s manufacture of textiles, which were highly desirable to the continental market. German merchants, in particular, were keen to trade in the town and established themselves outside the centre on undeveloped glebe land (farmland assigned to an incumbent clergyman), in easy reach of both the railway station and the Bradford spur of the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

The area eventually became known as Little Germany. The area was developed fairly rapidly during the 1860s and 1870s and the architectural character therefore has an unusual uniformity of colour, style and function. Despite this, the majority of the buildings were built individually and have unique features, expressing the status and wealth of those who commissioned them. This townscape is harmonious in size, scale, texture and colour, enlivened by eclectic detailing. The office (or chambers) and warehouse buildings of Little Germany are generally in a neoclassical Italian Palazzo style, using local, honey-coloured sandstone. Around 50 of them are listed.

As with any new powers, there was initially some uncertainty about how an LLBCO could help Bradford’s aspirations for the area, but during 2013 English Heritage and the city council worked together to explore how this could be done to allay developers’ fears that LBC can be an obstacle to change. An LLBCO came to be seen as a potentially very useful tool for unlocking listed buildings which were vacant, under-occupied and in need of new investment. With the help of Little Germany Action (a community organisation which promotes the interests of the area’s businesses and residents) English Heritage prepared a draft LLBCO covering Little Germany and consenting the necessary changes to bring these buildings back into beneficial reuse.

The order recognises the differing degrees of significance of the external and internal elements of the buildings covered and is appropriately conditioned to ensure that elements of the highest significance, including principal street elevations, staircases, entrances, corridors and rooms, including fixtures, fittings and decorative features, are afforded the highest degrees of protection. It is vital that the order is based on this understanding so that it strikes the right balance between facilitating change and protecting what is special.

At the time of writing, officers were preparing to gain the city council’s approval to start consultation on the making of an LLBCO for Little Germany, which could be in place by the spring of 2015. English Heritage and the city council will engage with the development community to explain how the LLBCO will simplify and speed up the approval process and so help bring the buildings of Little Germany back into use.

English Heritage is also working with Maldon District Council on an LBHPA for Stow Maries in Essex, the most complete World War I airfield in Britain where an LBHPA will facilitate a programme of repairs by volunteers to the Grade II* listed huts.

The introduction of heritage partnership agreements granting LBC or scheduled monument consent was the subject of the 2013 public consultation on improvements to the Welsh heritage system, and were generally well received. A Welsh heritage bill is scheduled for introduction to the National Assembly for Wales in spring 2015. There don’t appear to be any plans to follow this approach in Scotland or Northern Ireland.


Further Information

Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (ERR)

Government guide to ERR

ERR case studies

Regulations for listed building heritage partnership agreements (LBHPAs)

EH advice note on drawing up LBHPAs

Regulations for local listed building consent orders (LLBCOs)

EH advice note on drawing up LLBCOs

EH briefing note for national listed building consent orders (NLBCOs)

Canal and River Trust NLBCO



The Building Conservation Directory, 2015


SARAH BUCKINGHAM MSc DipTP MRTPI FSA works in the Government Advice Team of English Heritage on reform of heritage protection systems. Originally an archaeologist, she has worked in planning and conservation in local authorities and at English Heritage for over 25 years.

RICHARD MORRICE PhD IHBC FSA is the senior better heritage protection adviser at English Heritage, developing EH’s Good Practice Advice to complement the NPPF and PPG, with policy responsibility for setting issues. He is chairman of Canterbury DAC and for many years was inspector of historic buildings covering Kent and East Sussex. He is also treasurer of the IHBC.

CRAIG BROADWITH BA DipProfPracArch PGCertHeritMan is English Heritage’s historic places adviser for Yorkshire. He works with communities, parishes, local authorities and regional bodies advising on the conservation and promotion of the historic environment. Previously he was principal conservation officer for Sheffield City Council.

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