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The British Archaeological Trust

15a Bull Plain, Hertford, Hertfordshire SG14 1DX Telephone: 01992-553377

The National Planning Policy Framework: A Statement by RESCUE: The British Archaeological Trust. Todays publication of the National Planning Policy Framework brings to an end 22 years of separate archaeological guidance within the planning system. First through PPG16, and latterly through PPS5, archaeology has been one of the various material considerations required of a developer when they are submitting an application. Part of the system maybe, but strangely peripheral in many ways. The NPPF changes this: the Governments framework brings together what they consider to be the principle keystones of sustainable planning and development into a single integrated format. It should be gratifying for all who work within the heritage profession to note that, finally, the historic environment has taken its place at the top table alongside the natural environment, transportation, climate change and all the other central pillars that support sensible planning policy. The inclusion of the historic environment within the core provisions of planning policy should be to its advantage. It is no longer remotely justifiable for local authorities to claim that historic environment planning advice services are superfluous, disposable, or in some way luxurious. There is a clear need now for the profession to lobby for an effective network of statutory teams of local authority advisors, specialist in their knowledge of archaeology, historic buildings and heritage landscapes. This should be the central aim for the archaeological sector from this point on, and we must aim to achieve it within the life of this Government. Unfortunately, this is where the positives come to an end. The NPPF represents a weakened policy provision for the Historic Environment. Its emphasis on designated features belies the fact that the vast majority of the countrys archaeological sites and a great many valued historic structures remain undesignated. Despite years of evidence there still remains inadequate recognition of the overwhelming positives that regeneration of the historic environment can bring to local communities, or the value that communities place on their local historic environment. Indeed, the statement regarding the desirability of new development making a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness (paragraph 126) represents the very opposite of what sustainable development and the historic environment is about. Disappointingly also, much of the unsatisfactory structure of PPS5 survives within the new Framework. The profession and the planning system must continue to struggle with the lamentable terminology of heritage assets - within a framework that now obviously considers much of our historic environment to be a liability whilst the highly subjective concepts of significance and advancing understanding remain. The Government have clearly intended that the broad principles of PPS5 should survive within this document, for which the profession should be grateful. It is however a real frustration that they have not seized the opportunity to eradicate some of its more confusing language. Overall this policy framework does not serve the concerns of the historic environment particularly well. The usual protocol upon publication of such documents is to give a cautious welcome to the new policy provisions and look forward to implementing their provisions effectively in the future. Sadly, RESCUE is unable to commit to either of these protocols in this instance. The publication of the NPPF seems likely to signal the start of a new round of debate and argument over the value we place on our heritage and its role in the rejuvenation of the national economy.

Help save the past for the future

RESCUE: 27.03.2011

Help save the past for the future

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