Policy H4: Heritage Assets
Development proposals affecting heritage assets should demonstrate an understanding of the significance of the asset and give details of how the development proposal will impact on the asset and, where relevant, its setting.
Any harm to designated assets should require clear and convincing justification.
Substantial harm to or loss of a designated heritage asset should be avoided, except in the circumstances outlined in current national policy. Less than substantial harm (or total loss of significance of) designated heritage assets should be refused consent unless it can be demonstrated that the harm or loss is necessary to achieve substantial public benefits (that outweigh the harm or loss) or the circumstances outlined in current national policy apply.
Harm to a non-designated heritage asset, or an important element of a non-designated heritage asset, should be avoided if viable or practicable.
Development proposals affecting heritage assets will be encouraged and supported where they conserve, enhance and return assets to appropriate active use consistent with their conservation, including those that have been identified as being at risk or under threat.
4.59 “Listing is the term given to the practice of listing buildings, scheduling monuments, registering parks, gardens and battlefields, and protecting wreck sites” (Historic England). A listed building is a building of special architectural or historic interest, as specified by the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (UK Parliament, 1990). Listing is made at three levels of importance: Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II. The protection applies to the whole of the listed building and any structure attached to it and the land within its curtilage that pre-dates June 1948. A scheduled monument is an historic building or site that is included in the list of Scheduled Monuments kept by the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport. The regime is set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 (UK Parliament, 1979).
4.60 Historic England provides the official database of all listed buildings, scheduled monuments, protected wrecks and registered parks, gardens and battlefields. Information about sites in Durham City is available in Durham County Council’s Historic Environment Record. ‘Keys to the Past’ and Durham County Council’s ‘The Durham Record’ provides publicly available information.
4.61 Non-designated heritage assets are “buildings, monuments, sites, places, areas or landscapes identified by plan-making bodies as having a degree of heritage significance meriting consideration in planning decisions but which do not meet the criteria for designated heritage assets” (PPG ‘Historic environment’ para.039). Notable unlisted buildings (i.e. non-designated heritage assets) in Our Neighbourhood have been identified through the Durham County Council (2016b) character appraisal of the Durham City Conservation Area. They are listed in Appendix B. These sites therefore have heritage significance which needs to be considered in planning decisions. This list in Appendix B is not exhaustive, is the situation at the time of writing (September 2019), and other non-designated heritage assets might be identified in the future.
4.62 Protection of the World Heritage Site is covered in Policy H1 and of the Conservation Areas in Our Neighbourhood in Policy H2. Neville’s Cross Battlefield site is additionally covered in Policy G2.
4.63 There is a statutory duty to protect listed buildings and buildings in a conservation area under Sections 66 and 72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. For a listed building, consent is required for any demolition, extension or alteration which may affect its character, appearance or significance (PPG ‘Historic environment’ para. 044). For a scheduled monument, any work on the site, or nearby operations that might affect it, require consent from the Secretary of State. (Historic England, Identification and Designation of Heritage Assets). Designated heritage sites are dealt with under the NPPF (Chapter 16; PPG ‘Historic environment’ para. 021 to 038). Applications for planning permissions and listed building consent require consultation/notification to a range of national bodies such as Historic England (PPG ‘Historic environment’ para. 042 to 057).
4.64 However, despite this legal protection, and to the concern of local people, recently development proposals have been approved that have resulted in the loss of heritage assets (see Appendix B). The purpose of Policy H4 is to address this concern.
4.65 In addition Policy H4 encourages bringing back heritage assets into appropriate use, particularly for assets at risk. The NPPF (para. 192) identifies: “the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets and putting them to viable uses consistent with their conservation”. PPG ‘Historic environment’ states that: “In the case of buildings, generally the risks of neglect and decay of heritage assets are best addressed through ensuring that they remain in active use that is consistent with their conservation” (para. 020). It gives examples of heritage benefits: “reducing or removing risks to a heritage asset” and “securing the optimum viable use of a heritage asset in support of its long term conservation” (para. 020).
4.66 Designated and non-designated heritage assets make an invaluable contribution to the character and significance of Our Neighbourhood. Not only is the visual impact important, but the buildings and assets of heritage interest provide a sense of place, identity and community.
4.67 “It is important that all non-designated heritage assets are clearly identified as such. In this context, it can be helpful if local planning authorities keep a local list of non-designated heritage assets, incorporating any such assets which are identified by neighbourhood planning bodies.” (PPG ‘Historic environment’ para. 040) This Plan urges Durham County Council to make such a list publicly available as well as a set of criteria for assessing non-designated heritage assets.
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