The National Planning Policy Framework published by the government provides advice on how the council must manage the planning process. Paragraph 189 of the NPPF states that:
'In determining applications, local planning authorities should require an applicant to describe the significance of any heritage assets affected, including any contribution made by their setting. The level of detail should be proportionate to the assets' importance and no more than is sufficient to understand the potential impact of the proposal on their significance. As a minimum the relevant historic environment record should have been consulted and the heritage assets assessed using appropriate expertise where necessary. Where a site on which development is proposed includes, or has the potential to include, heritage assets with archaeological interest, local planning authorities should require developers to submit an appropriate desk-based assessment and, where necessary, a field evaluation.'
In order to satisfy this requirement a document called a Heritage Statement must be submitted with the following types of application;
- Listed building consent applications.
- Planning applications affecting a designated heritage asset or its setting (this would include listed buildings, World Heritage Site, conservation area, scheduled ancient monuments, registered park and garden, registered battlefield)
- Planning applications affecting a non-designated heritage asset (see below).
A heritage asset is defined in the National Planning Policy Framework as a building, monument, site, place, area or landscape identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions, because of its heritage interest. Heritage assets includes designated heritage assets (such as listed buildings, conservation areas, registered parks and gardens, registered battlefield and scheduled ancient monuments) as well as non-designated heritage assets identified by the local planning authority (which are sometimes described as locally listed heritage assets). The process of identifying non designated heritage assets is ongoing. They are often identified during the pre-application enquiry process or during the formal planning application process in which case a decision on the application may be delayed to allow the applicant the opportunity to prepare a Heritage Assessment.
The Heritage Statement can be presented as a standalone document or combined with the Design and Access Statement. Further advice about preparing a Design and Access Statement can be found in the National Planning Practice Guidance.
The purpose of the Heritage Statement is to assess the nature, extent and importance of the significance of the heritage asset and the contribution of the setting to its significance. The statement must be detailed enough that the impact of the proposed work on the significance of the heritage asset and its setting can be properly assessed by the Local Planning Authority.
Significance is defined as the value of a heritage asset to this and future generations because of its heritage interest. The interest may be archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic.
Setting is defined as the surroundings in which a heritage asset is experienced. Its extent is not fixed and may change as the asset and its surroundings evolve. Elements of a setting may make a positive or negative contribution to the significance of an asset, may affect the ability to appreciate that significance or may be neutral.
Depending on the scope and complexity of the heritage asset and the proposals it will be appropriate for the Heritage Statement to be prepared by a competent accredited professional in the field of building conservation, archaeology and/or heritage conservation (as appropriate).
A sound Heritage Statement should be a balanced evidence based assessment of the significance of the heritage asset. The approach, scope and level of detail should be relevant to the type of heritage asset. In the case of a building this is likely to cover analysis of historic fabric, phasing and development of the site alongside documentary research in order to fully understand the significance of the heritage asset. In the case of conservation areas, the World Heritage Site and issues to do with setting then wider analysis and evaluation of character and views will be important.
Captioned photographs and illustrative material (such as a coloured phasing plan) can be useful in supporting the text.
Where a site includes or has the potential to include heritage assets with archaeological interest, then the submission should include an appropriate desk-based assessment and, where necessary, a field evaluation.
It is good practice for a Heritage Assessment to be researched and prepared at the beginning of the process of formulating proposals. The significance of the heritage asset and any constraints that this imposes should then influence the development of the proposals.