Before starting out on neighbourhood planning and preparing a Neighbourhood Plan, it is important to fully understand what it is the community likes and dislikes about their local area. Placecheck is a user-friendly tool designed to help communities to articulate what it is about their local area they want preserved or what they want to change.
Placecheck also provides a starting point for assessing the historic environment at a neighbourhood level. It can be carried out by local people without additional support and can be used as the basis for drawing up a Neighbourhood Plan. It can also be used to start the process of drawing up a local list of heritage of local importance.
Placecheck is a very good way of agreeing what is good about a place and what can be improved.
The Placecheck website provides a series of questions which can be used to begin these discussions. It is also important to find out why the local area is the way it is. This will require looking at local historic records such as in local record offices, local history libraries, museums and using the Historic Environment Record.
By building a Neighbourhood Plan on the back of the understanding developed through carrying out a Placecheck, a community can ensure that the Plan supports changes which preserve and enhance local character. In a speech given at the English Heritage 'Heritage Champions Conference' in November 2012, Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, welcomed the creation of Placecheck as a user friendly tool when referring to the neighbourhood planning process.
The evidence developed through Placecheck might also lead you to think about the following actions, although a Neighbourhood Plan may not be the most appropriate way to take these forward. Your local planning authority can advise you further.
These actions could include:
- Small scale improvements to the neighbourhood to enhance the appearance of the streets and public space
- Preparing guidance on the design of new development where it may affect a place's character
- Promoting best-practice in the conservation and reuse of local heritage assets and their settings
- Encouraging investment and enhancement of particular buildings and spaces especially those that are at risk
- Considering whether any buildings and spaces are worthy of protection through national designation or local designation
- Undertaking a conservation area appraisal, review or suggesting new conservation areas, the creation a local heritage list or local buildings at risk survey
Having completed a Placecheck, the information can be also used to begin a dialogue between the local community, owners, the local authority (especially those with responsibility for managing the historic environment) and voluntary groups (civic societies, building preservation trusts, etc) on how to improve the area.
Further sources of information
In addition to your initial Placecheck, you may wish to carry out a more detailed assessment of the historic character of your local area which will help to make your Plan more comprehensive and robust. A range of other methods and their possible applications are described in 'Understanding Place: An Introduction' which acts as a signpost to other help and advice including practical case studies.
Understanding Place: An Introduction
07 Jun 2010
There are many different techniques of historic characterisation tailored to different scales and circumstances. The main approaches used by English Heritage are summarised in this document.
English Heritage and CABE's 'Building in Context' toolkit provides further information on heritage and design issues. Its purpose is to stimulate a high standard of design when development takes place in historically sensitive areas.
Our web pages on improving your area and neighbourhood planning opportunities provide further guidance on the historic environment and the role of English Heritage in neighbourhood planning.
This advice can also be downloaded as a PDF.