Community planning in various forms has had a long history and with the passing of the Localism Act its role has been enhanced by enabling local groups to take part in neighbourhood planning and produce a Neighbourhood Plan for their area.
English Heritage wants to encourage community groups to consider their local heritage and the historic environment's role in neighbourhood planning. The historic environment is the physical legacy of thousands of years of human activity in England, in the form of buildings, monuments, sites and landscapes. It gives every place its character and identity. A Neighbourhood Plan may help to guide how heritage can be conserved whilst adapting it to modern needs.
What is a Neighbourhood Plan?
A Neighbourhood Development Plan to give it its full title, sets out policies in relation to the development and use of land in the defined neighbourhood area. It is drafted by local people who have been recognised by their council as a representative group for their neighbourhood.
The proposed Plan must be publicised and consulted on. It is then submitted to the local planning authority and an independent examiner. If it satisfies certain basic conditions then it must be put to a referendum. If more than half of those voting vote in favour then the document must be adopted as the Neighbourhood Development Plan (Neighbourhood Plan) for that area.
It also forms part of the Local Statutory Development Plan (Local Plan) against which planning decisions are considered. The Neighbourhood Plan takes precedence over the local authority's Local Plan on matters in the neighbourhood area that are not of strategic importance to the local authority's area.
Further information on neighbourhood planning can be found in the English Heritage Guide to Heritage Protection.
Consultation with English Heritage
Under the Regulations covering neighbourhood planning, before submitting the proposed Neighbourhood Plan to the local planning authority, the group needs to consider if various organisations (statutory consultees) need to be consulted about the proposals, because they affect the natural or historic environment. These statutory consultees include English Heritage, Natural England and the Environment Agency amongst others whose interests may be affected.
The statutory consultees have jointly produced guidance on the natural and historic environment in neighbourhood planning.
The Benefits of Including the Historic Environment in Neighbourhood Planning?
It is often a place's heritage that makes it special. That distinctiveness not only gives local people a sense of belonging or identity and a feeling of pride in a place, but it can help to attract investment to an area. Heritage can also be a powerful tool for delivering regeneration and providing space for business, community facilities and other activities.
By its very nature local heritage is valued by its community and therefore it is important for it to be protected at the most local level by those who treasure it most.
Including heritage in your Neighbourhood Plan can help protect those areas which are valued locally and ensure that they remain in productive use where appropriate. It may help to ensure that potential new development is properly integrated with what is already there and does not result in the loss of local distinctiveness. It can also identify opportunities for improvement and the challenges that will need to be faced.
Addressing how best to integrate new development into an existing place can encourage people to be innovative. Taking into account what is special about a place often demonstrates that off-the-shelf design and construction might not be appropriate. It encourages sensitive development of historic buildings and places that can invigorate an area, stimulating investment, entrepreneurship, tourism and employment.
Information about Local Heritage That Could Go into a Neighbourhood Plan
Any policies you include in the Neighbourhood Plan should be based on sound evidence and information about how a place has developed and evolved is often a key element. This could include a description of the historic character of the area, as well as identifying any listed buildings, scheduled monuments, conservation areas, registered parks and battlefields or local heritage assets. An assessment of the condition and vulnerability of the local historic environment will also help in identifying the need for any future management action.
When deciding how much information to provide, as a guiding principle, we recommend including as much as is necessary to guide future decisions that may affect the character and heritage of a place.
Our guidance on 'Knowing Your Place' may help you in deciding what information to include in your Plan.
Knowing your place
31 May 2011
This advice note deals with the incorporation of local heritage within plans that rural communities are producing, reviewing or updating and focuses particularly on parish plans and village design statements.
How Do I Find this Information?
There is a wide range of information about the historic environment available online which could be useful for your Neighbourhood Plan, such as:
- The National Heritage List for England: provides descriptions of all nationally designated heritage assets
- Heritage Gateway: gives access to a number of local Historic Environment Records for information on historic buildings, archaeological sites and other features
- Guide to Local Listing: sets out good practice in developing or amending a local heritage list which is especially useful in identifying heritage assets that are valued by the community, but not nationally designated
- Heritage at Risk Register: identifies heritage assets at risk that may be found in your local area
- Heritage Counts: is the annual survey of the state of England's historic environment and looks at its wider social and economic role
- English Heritage's Advice by topic: national guidance and advice on a range of subjects including regeneration, places of worship, heritage crime and climate change
The Historic Environment Record maintained by the local authority is a key resource, and local amenity and other environmental groups may also hold useful information.
What do I do to get started?
You can carry out a survey of your area as part of a local group of interested people. This could start with a Placecheck, which should help identify widely held views on what is liked and disliked about the area, what needs to be worked on and what the area needs in terms of development for the benefit of the community.
This can help you as a group decide what might be in your Plan, taking into account the information not only on the historic environment but other information held by your local authority planning department on the local area.
If you want more information on what you could include in your Plan, you might find our guidance on Knowing Your Place useful.
Before getting started on a Neighbourhood Plan it would be helpful to discuss this with the local authority planning policy team. It is also advisable to contact and act on the advice of the local authority heritage advisers (both archaeological and historic building conservation officers). This will help ensure the work is efficiently focussed.
Our web pages on finding out about your local area and neighbourhood planning opportunities provide further information on sources of information on the historic environment and the role of English Heritage in neighbourhood planning. This advice can also be downloaded as a PDF.