Theme 2(a): A Beautiful and Historic City – Heritage

4.2(a).1 Vision and Objectives



Preserving and enhancing local heritage for the cultural benefit and health and wellbeing of present and future generations.



  1. To protect and enhance the site and setting of the Durham Cathedral and Castle World Heritage Site;
  2. To protect and enhance the Conservation Areas and their setting by sensitive and well-designed development that:
    1. balances conflicting needs with emphasis on avoiding diluting the distinctive character of the locality;
    2. sustains and increases their social, economic and environmental vitality;
    3. avoids the cumulative impact of dominating schemes either by their size, massing or uniform use;
  3. To uphold high standards of sympathetic, distinctive, and innovative design;
  4. To identify and protect heritage assets.

4.2(a).2 Context

4.27 The historic city and its setting is the quality for which Durham is universally known and loved and is the key stewardship issue for its local authority and its residents. The importance of the heritage aspect has been recognised by the designation of the Cathedral and Castle as a World Heritage site and the designation of the Durham City Conservation Area and the Burn Hall Conservation Area. They form the focus of the heritage aspect of this theme. The green setting of the World Heritage Site and the conservation areas are part of their charm and this is covered in the Green Infrastructure section of this theme.

4.28 The significance of the historic environment of Durham City is an incomparable shared resource that gives distinctiveness and meaning to a specific place. Appreciation and understanding of the history and heritage of the City and the World Heritage Site of Norman Cathedral and Castle encourage informed participation in caring for this heritage for the cultural benefit and wellbeing of present and future generations.

4.29 The City’s special historic and architectural interest must be protected against unsympathetic developments that would have a damaging impact on the character of the historic centre and its setting, whilst development which would add distinction and quality to its urban form should be encouraged and promoted. The protection afforded by the designation of World Heritage Site, the Green Belt, the conservation areas and non-designated sites of historic, architectural, aesthetic and social interests in which the City is hugely endowed needs to be supported by strong and positive decisions in implementing change.

4.30 Historic England’s National Heritage List for England gives details of the of listed heritage assets in Our Neighbourhood and a summary is available in Table E2 in Appendix E. Appendix C gives a list of non-designated heritage assets in Our Neighbourhood.

4.2(a).3 Justification

4.31 This justification refers to the Heritage theme as a whole. Additional, specific justification for each heritage policy is given with the policy itself.

4.32 The remarkable heritage values of Durham City belong to everyone and justify protection now and in the future. To conserve the City’s outstanding heritage and to promote good design of new development is strongly supported by local people in response to the Forum’s public consultation and young people’s survey (Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum, 2015, 2016a).

4.33 The Government promotes the conservation and protection of the historic environment and heritage in the NPPF (in core principles (para17, bullet 10), section 12 (para 126 to 1421) and in PPG (ID 18a)) and in the white papers ‘Heritage Protection for the 21st Century’ (Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2007) and ‘The Culture White Paper (Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2016). The Core Principles of the NPPF (para 17) recognise that heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource that should be conserved “in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of this and future generations” (bullet 10) while always seeking “to secure high quality design” (bullet 4), to “take account of the different roles and character of different areas” (bullet 5) and to “take account of and support local strategies to improve health, social and cultural wellbeing for all, and deliver sufficient community and cultural facilities and services to meet local needs” (bullet 12). The Culture White Paper states that “Our historic built environment is a unique asset and local communities will be supported to make the most of the buildings they cherish.” (p.36). Historic England, the public body looking after England’s historic environment provides much guidance with the aim of championing and protecting historic places. It notes in its planning guidance that “Heritage can play a part in delivering all three elements of sustainable development.” (Historic England, Conservation principles, policies and guidance).

4.34 Locally, the value of Durham’s heritage is acknowledged by the designation of the Cathedral and Castle as a World Heritage Site (Durham World Heritage Site, 2016, 2017), and designation of the Durham City Conservation Area (Durham County Council, 2016e) and the Burn Hall Conservation Area within Our Neighbourhood, and the adjacent Shincilffe and Sunderland Bridge conservations areas. The Sustainable Communities Strategy for County Durham 2014-2030 (County Durham Partnership, 2014) includes the objectives to promote sustainable design and protect Durham’s heritage. Numerous saved policies from the Durham City Local Plan (City of Durham Council, 2004; Durham County Council, 2015a) are relevant, designating assets, determining what type of development is permissible and promoting good design (E3,4,6,21,22,23,24,25; H13; Q4,8,9,10,11,12; U2). Durham County Council’s (2009c) issues paper on sustainable design also provides details of good design: the final, comprehensive SPD is not yet available. The Durham City Regeneration Masterplan (Durham County Council, 2014c) and its update (Durham County Council, 2016f) have a number of implementation projects and actions relevant to the heritage of Our Neighbourhood (a subset of the Durham City area covered by the Masterplan), i.e. Making the most of the historic core – in partnership with Durham University, Business Improvement District, event planners, hotels, to increase visitor numbers and ensure care of historic buildings. Completed projects include the renovation of Wharton Park.

4.35 Historic England’s high level principles emphasise the importance of place: “Understanding the significance of places is vital. Significant places should be managed to sustain their values.” (Historic England, Conservation principles, policies and guidance). The Culture White Paper (Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2016) calls for partnerships “to develop the role of culture in place-making.” (p.34) Locally, the North East Culture Partnership has set up the ‘Case for Culture’ Project for cultural development focusing on the arts and heritage. The requirement to seek a balance between innovative new development which enhances the historic environment and the conservation of medieval routes and landmarks is of great importance for ensuring that Durham City retains its sense of place and authenticity.

Access for everyone to England’s rich heritage has never been more important. The links between taking part in cultural life and life chances are increasingly well understood and evidenced. Taking part has a positive effect on the health, wealth and happiness of individuals and communities. As a nation, we need to include and involve more people than ever before. Duncan Wilson, 2016

4.2(a).4 Planning Policies and Proposals for Land Use


  • Policy H1: Protection of the World Heritage Site
  • Policy H2: The Conservation Areas
  • Policy H3: The Character Areas
  • Policy H4: Our Neighbourhood Outside the Conservation Areas
  • Policy H5: Listed buildings, Scheduled Ancient Monuments, Registered Parks and Gardens and Registered Battlefields
  • Policy H6: Non-designated Heritage Assets

Next section: Policy H1: Protection of the World Heritage Site

3 Responses to Theme 2(a): A Beautiful and Historic City – Heritage

  1. Simon Priestley says:

    Fully support the objectives

  2. Peter Morgan says:

    I wholeheartedly support these policies.

    Durham has a wonderful legacy acknowledged by the World Heritage status. The enhancement and protection of our City requires the establishment if a “Durham vernacular” in the architectural design of new builds – not the current vandalisation of sites and views of the City and surrounds and disgusting and poor designs for new builds, driven only by maximising profit.

    If we go on like we are, we’ll end up looking like every other city/town in the UK

  3. Lucy says:

    I support all of these policies and the naming of specific sites. At the moment it feels as if every old building in Durham is either being knocked down and turned into a Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) or renovated and turned into a PBSA. What next – will Durham Prison be the next building to be sold off and converted into a PBSA?