The case for local lists

Local designations have been the responsibility of the local planning authorities since Grade III buildings were removed from the process of statutory listing in 1968.

The Heritage White Paper, in 2007 identified the importance of establishing a local list of buildings and assets that are not protected as statutory listed buildings or buildings within a conservation area. Buildings that are of national importance are 'listed' as are areas of national importance for both architectural and historic interest. Buildings that are historic and contribute to local character or history and are not listed or in a conservation area have no such protection.

Almost half of LPAs have a local list but Colchester does not. A local list will enable us to offer some protection to locally designated buildings.

PPG 15 Planning and the Historic Environment 6.16 states that: "many buildings which are valued for their contribution to the local scene or for local historical associations will not merit statutory listing" and that "it is open to planning authorities to draw up lists of locally important buildings" and to "formulate local plan policies for their protection through normal development control procedures." Policies should make clear that such buildings do not enjoy the full protection of statutory listing.

The inclusion of a heritage asset on a local list can be a material consideration within the planning system but it does need to be reflected in Local Development Framework policies. The Development Policies document which is due to be published next month includes a policy regarding "protection and enhancement of existing buildings and built areas which do not have listed building or conservation area status but have a particular local importance or character which it is desirable to keep."

Unlisted buildings inside Conservation Areas:
Total demolition currently requires conservation area consent. The installation of satellite dishes and the formation of dormer windows fronting a highway will require planning permission. These constraints aside, unlisted buildings in conservation areas are afforded very little protection from unsympathetic alterations. For instance, without the introduction of further controls by way of Article 4(2) Directions, chimneys can be demolished, windows replaced with uPVC modern designs and uncharacteristic additions can be made. Such alterations to unlisted buildings can seriously erode the special character and appearance for which a conservation area was originally designated.

A local list that is reflected in adopted policies has proven to strengthen their protection. Research carried out by Peter Boland in 1997/8 found that of 20 appeal decisions relating to buildings on local lists, only one was negative as regards a local list building, leading him to conclude that "appeal inspectors appear highly accepting of local lists, viewing them as a perfectly proper exercise of the powers of local planning authorities". Already half of local authorities have created such lists

There is however a gaping flaw in local list protection: so long as the demolition of an unlisted dwelling house outside of a conservation area is not even classified as 'development', it will not require planning permission and therefore there are no watertight means for ensuring its protection. National planning guidance makes it clear that most demolition does not constitute 'development'. Indeed, applications are often made for permission for redevelopment including an element of demolition and it is in these instances where the inclusion of a building on a local list has led to it being saved from demolition following an appeal.

This really does need to be kept in mind because I don’t want to raise public expectations that locally important buildings will be protected. Policies should thus be phrased cautiously; e.g. "the council will, as far as possible, resist the loss of any buildings on the local list."

A local list of heritage assets is an essential part of the Council’s on-going commitment to the conservation of the district’s distinct historic character and we welcome this offer from the Historic Buildings Forum.

Karen Syrett
Spatial Policy Manager
Strategic Policy & Regeneration
Colchester Borough Council