The Building Conservation Directory 2021

28 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 2 1 C AT H E D R A L C O MM U N I C AT I O N S DEVELOPMENT AFFECTING THE SETTING OF HERITAGE ASSETS GAIL STOTEN T HIS ARTICLE aims to provide an introduction to the setting of heritage assets and how their significance may be affected by development. It explains the key terms that should be employed to articulate this rigorously, the relevant guidance and legislation, and the appropriate case law in England. The methodologies employed for the assessment of setting have evolved over the past 20 years, and will no doubt evolve further. No single highly-defined approach can be appropriate for all assessments. Heritage assets are massively diverse in their nature and susceptible to a variety of impacts, and issues of experience and understanding are highly subjective. As such a flexible approach is required, giving a narrative description of the most important issues within the parameters of good practice outlined below. There are still miss-matches of terminology and approach between the legislation, policy and guidance, which are discussed below, and a couple of areas, in particular public access, where the need to employ common sense is clearly evident. KEY TERMS AND KEY TESTS The first key term is ‘heritage asset’. This is defined in the National Planning Policy Framework* (NPPF) for England as: a building, monument, site, place, area or landscape identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions, because of its heritage interest. It includes designated heritage assets and assets identified by the local planning authority (including local listing). This refers to two types of heritage asset: those that are designated and those that are not. Designated heritage assets comprise listed buildings, scheduled monuments, conservation areas, registered parks and gardens, registered battlefields and battle sites, protected wreck sites, and world heritage sites. Non-designated heritage assets can comprise a similar range of sites which have been identified by the local planning authority as having ‘a degree’ of heritage significance but not enough to merit designation. No lower limit is given to the level of significance required, but the mention of local listing in the definition of a heritage asset (cf NPF glossary) is a firm steer that an appreciable level of significance is required rather than any level of significance whatsoever. Historic England have published guidance on Local Heritage Listing* which is currently under review, and there is currently a push (with funding from the government) to define heritage assets of local significance. The next term leads on from this: significance , which the quotation above defines as deriving from something having heritage interest . The NPPF also provides a separate definition of ‘significance (for heritage policy)’ as: the value of a heritage asset to this and future generations because of its heritage interest. The interest may be archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic. Significance derives not only from a heritage asset’s physical presence, but also from its setting. For world heritage sites, the cultural value described within each site’s Statement of Outstanding Universal Value forms part of its significance. Hence, a heritage asset is something that has a level of heritage significance, with that deriving from its archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic interest. Distinctly modern architecture maintains an appropriate scale and a respectful distance from the Grade II* listed Victoria Bridge, Bath and the intervening space has been carefully landscaped. (Photo: Jonathan Taylor)