The online resource for the historic environment

4.09 Legislative controls

“The conservation of the historic environment is achieved through legislation, policy and practical guidance on good practice, including:
International provision…
National legislation…
National policy and guidance…
Technical advice…
Guidebooks, popular and educational publications.”
Historic Scotland (2002) Passed to the Future

To which might be added local, national and international consensus.

The built historic environment in the United Kingdom is protected by legislation and controls operated at both local and national levels. At local level in England and Wales the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 provides protection. At national level assets are protected under Scheduled and Ancient Monument procedure (Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979). Within such legislative structure are many checks and balances to ensure that the nation’s stock of historic sites and architecture is protected and preserved for future generations.
In Scotland the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 and Ancient Monument and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 provides the equivalent legislation.

“The first and clearest case (for protection) is that of the building which is a work of art, the product of a distinct and outstanding creative mind.”
Ministry of Town & Country Planning (1946) Instructions for listing

“…statutory protection must…embody contemporary philosophical attitudes, if only to the extent that effective protection invariably depends on the creation of an inventory, a list of what is to be protected – and priorities for listing are determined by a philosophy, explicit or implicit.”
Earl, J.

In many (most) cases intervention will be regulated under planning/listed building/scheduled monument legislation and may require approval and negotiation with the relevant authorities. Local planning authorities are required to prepare and publish documents defining their plans for future development of their areas, such plans may be known as Local Plans, Development Plans or Local Development Frameworks. Local authorities publish policies and guidelines designed to influence proposals for the historic environment and their consideration is essential reading/reference when considering intervention.

See also:
Historic Scotland Memorandum of Guidance (still relevant but in the process of being replaced with a new series of Scottish Historic Environment Policy [SHEP] documents).
For Northern Ireland: Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines for Planning Authorities, Guidance on Part IV of the Planning Development Act 2000 - Planning Guidelines No. 9.
The first effective legislative response to the provision of protection was made under the 1947 Town & Country Planning Act when the first list of buildings of historical and architectural merit was compiled: although, some might take issue with this citing the list prepared under the Ancient Monuments Protection Act of 1882. The latter list comprised only 68 structures and had very few powers. It was not until the 1947 Act that legislative control was given teeth.

In order for legislation to be effective certain principles need to be put in place.

These might be paraphrased as follows:

  • A list of what is to be preserved or protected
  • A system of local control requiring that works be subject to notification and approval
  • A way of permitting harmless or desirable work to a protected structure – a certificate of approval
  • Effective sanctions against offenders
  • (after Earl, J.)

Although protection may be offered by a system of legislative controls, it does not, however, define a philosophy for conservation. This might be said to have developed through international response and convention: manifest in international charters such as the Athens Charter (International), Venice Charter (International), Burra Charter (Australia) and Appleton Charter (Canada) amongst others.

In 2004 there were 372,801 grade I, II and II* listed building entries in England with a total of 1.3 buildings per entry suggesting a total of approximately 484,641 listed buildings in England. See NHTG publication Traditional Building Craft Skills for breakdown of figures for England. In Scotland there are 46,560 listed buildings entries.

Define, in your area of the UK how buildings are categorised and what criteria are used to define each category.

You might find reference to Historic Scotland publication Memorandum of Guidance on listed buildings and conservation areas 1998, useful in the exercise.
See also Building Conservation article Conservation Planning (2001) Fairclough and Taylor. Also Building Conservation article The Human Rights Act(2001) Fairclough, A. Also Building Conservation article Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas (1999) Taylor, J.

In the UK various bodies assist the Secretary of State (DCMS) in the compilation of lists of historic structures: in England this is English Heritage, in Scotland it is Historic Scotland and in Wales it is Cadw. In Northern Ireland it is Doe (NI) Environment and Heritage Service. In April 2005 that is due to change (in England) such that there will be a transfer of the listing system from DCMS to English Heritage. A government white paper is due to be publish late in 2005 and covering additional changes to the present system. These changes will address the following issues (from Context Magazine Issue 48 Spring 2005):

  • Unification of the current listing, scheduling and registering system for historic sites into a single regime
  • New unified ‘heritage consent’ including scope for statutory management agreements for complex sites
  • Publication of new listing criteria
  • Agreement on statutory management plans for complex sites

With effect from April 2005 the following major changes will apply in England:

  • New notification arrangements for owners in listing cases
  • New consultation arrangements for owners and local planning authorities
  • Better information for the owners of listed buildings
  • Introduction of a new formal review process for listing conditions

See also GOV.UK-Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport for details of their report Review of Heritage Protection: The Way Forward. Also see Listing is Changing (product code 51031) available from English Heritage. Identify similar web sites for Wales, Scotland and N.I.

In addition to the preparation of nationally determined listings, local planning authorities may also list buildings and sites of particular local interest based on the following criteria:

  • Buildings of a definitive and recognisable architectural interest
  • Buildings relating to traditional or historic industrial processes in a reasonable state of preservation
  • Buildings of character acting as landmarks in the townscape or landscape
  • Buildings associated with unusual or significant local events or personalities or containing features of definitive antiquity (i.e pre 1800)
  • Good quality examples of architecture
  • All with a focus on local and or regional significance

“The compilation of a ‘Local List’ of buildings which are considered important and representative of the local scene and history of an area can provide additional information on the historic environment and can help in formulating local plan policies. Such a list can be helpful in identifying buildings which merit spot-listing.”
RTPI (2001) Conservation of the Historic Environment: A Good Guide for Planners

For general information on listing procedure in England see Heritage ebooks but also refer to Listing is Changing and Review of Heritage Protection: The Way Forward DCMS 2004

In addition to the categorisation or listing of buildings some form of approval procedure is also necessary. In the UK this is provide for by an approval process operating under the aegis of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and the Ancient Monuments & Archaeological Areas Act 1979 (see previous for Scottish legislation title variation). See also impending changes defined above.

At local level, grades 1, 2* and 2 in England and categories A, B and C(S) in Scotland are administered by local authorities. Under Schedule Monument procedure protection is administered at national government level assisted by Historic Scotland, English Heritage and Cadw. In Northern Ireland it is Doe (NI) Environment and Heritage Service.

Buildings at risk through disrepair are also offered protection. Under Section 115 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 a notice may be served on owners of a listed building forcing them to undertake essential repairs to the listed structure. The notice must specify the works considered necessary by the authority and must also notify the owner that if, the repairs are not completed within two months of the notice the local authority may make a compulsory purchase order and submit it to the Secretary of State for confirmation. See Heritage ebooks for About Listed Buildings. See also English Heritage, Buildings at Risk: A New Strategy. Identify similar publications in Scotland, Wales and N.I.

By reference to the above web site respond to the following questions:

What is compulsory purchase procedure?

What is the procedure relating to a Building Preservation Notice?

How might a local authority proceed to ensure that unauthorised works are subject to their control?

What buildings are exempt from the need to obtain listed building consent. How is protection maintained?

Define what other measure is available to protect an area of historical or architectural value and how such an Order might be extended to cover works other than demolition.

To respond to the above questions you may wish to refer to Memorandum of Guidance on listed buildings and conservation areas. Historic Scotland 1998.

Define your understanding of what is meant by buildings at risk.

Historic assets may fall into disrepair for a variety of reasons and causes. Ownership may be called into doubt by absence of a will by a deceased owner, bankruptcy may leave an asset without an identifiable custodian. Buildings as a result may fall into disrepair and be vulnerable to decay and may become ‘at risk’ if nothing is done to protect and preserve their continuity. Nationally in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, English Heritage, Historic Scotland and in Northern Ireland DoE (NI) Environment and Heritage Service, are empowered to formulate a list or register of buildings at risk and in danger of loss as a result of their neglect and condition; such lists are known by the acronym of BAR or, in the case of Northern Ireland BARNI.

In England, English Heritage has analysed the state of buildings at risk within the grade I and grade II* categories at 3.4% of entries – 1 in 30! Including scheduled monuments 1,430 items are on the BARs list. Surprisingly, 16.7% are owned either by local or national government agencies. See English Heritage's Heritage at Risk pages for detailed analysis of the above figures. Identify similar sites in Scotland, Wales and NI

Categories of risk are graded as follows:

    A. Immediate risk of further rapid deterioration or loss of fabric with no solution agreed.
    B. Immediate risk of further rapid deterioration or loss of fabric but with solution agreed but not yet implemented.
    C. Slow decay with no solution agreed.
    D. Slow decay solution agreed but not yet implemented
    E. Under repair or in fair to good condition, but no user identified; or under threat of vacancy with no obvious new user.
    F. Repair scheme in progress and end user identified; functionally redundant buildings with new use agreed but not yet implemented.

For comparative study in Scotland see the Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland

From study of the above web site, define the role of Building Preservation Trusts in BARs strategy.