Heritage Assessment

  • Look out! No work of any nature can be carried out without clearance by the Local Planning Authority – a Specification and Brief, compiled by an independent Heritage Specialist, must first be compiled. Nothing can be done until the work (and the funds allocated) meet the satisfaction of the planning officer. Many owners of minor properties think ‘Oh, they won’t mind a service trench or two in the meantime!’ - they will. An enforcement issue is a serious matter. A ‘Stop notice’ may be served and the existing planning permission rendered void. Exceptionally, prosecution may demand the reinstatement of destroyed features. Even if you choose to wing it, you saddle any prospective buyer with the problems of getting ‘retrospective planning permission’.

  • Remember that no local authority in England carries out any recording work or other heritage research for developers – on the principal that the ‘polluter pays’. Money –and time- must always be set aside for this purpose. The developer does however enjoy the use of an online County Sites and Monuments Record maintained by the majority of County Councils. Put another way, ignorance is no longer an excuse!

  • Listings, some dating from the 1930s, may be based on the most cursory ‘drive-by’ examination. A single yellowed index card may be the only ‘resource’ in existence for a complex building. This is not how things are now done.

  • A ‘17th –century’ Manor house in Hampshire proved on detailed examination to have a facade dating entirely from the 1930s! To have accurate information at hand about the cultural nature and date of your property is now a given.

  • ‘Archaeological services’ covers a wide variety of activities. A bewildering number of different types of report are now demanded not only from the major infrastructure developer, but also the unfortunate listed-building owner who wants a blocked window to be re-opened (even if they think they know all about sash windows). The waters are muddied by constant changes in statutory requirement; nor is there regional uniformity in the application of legislation (always check the date of an online resource).

  • Things are now settling down after decades of ‘permanent revolution’. Historic England now identifies four categories of heritage value – evidential, historical, aesthetic and communal. Basically, it’s ‘what matters about a place’ and how to assess the effects of (proposed) changes. The values attached to a heritage asset can be set out in a variety of formats. They have been created largely to augment Design and Access Statements.

  • The Heritage Statement is related to but distinct from the Statement of Significance or the Heritage Impact Assessment. It is one interpretation of the National Planning Policy Framework (PPG14). Its deficiencies are that it requires the developer to make their own recognition of impact and to come up with their own justifications for it. This is sometimes unrealistic for such ‘recognition’ is really the responsibility of the local planning authority.

  • ‘SOS’ (Statements of Significance) - this artfully ‘neutral’ document points out not only what matters about a place for the present generation – and future generations; but also how these values are manifested in the asset and its setting. In many ways it does what the Design and Access statement is supposed to do. It is a permanent resource that avoids specific reference to any particular building project/intervention.

  • ‘DBA’ (Desk-based Assessment) - a more formal and ‘site-specific’ appreciation of potential archaeological survival, based on topographic and other sources. It is usually concerned with the below-ground archaeology.

  • WB ‘Watching Brief’ - monitoring of archaeological evidence during an intervention, be this the insertion of a new window or the exploratory assessment of land before development. You will probably be more interested in the former, but projects where there is a potential for the requirement of controlled excavation can, in the initial stages, be dealt with by Architectural Archaeology.