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Consultation on the PPS15 Planning for the Historic Environment: Historic Environment Planning Practice Guide (EH)

Submission from ALGAO:England

A Response from the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers to the consultation on the PPS 15 Planning for the Historic Environment: Historic Environment Planning Practice Guide.

The Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers for England (ALGAO: England) is the national body representing local government archaeology services at County, District, Metropolitan, Unitary and National Park level in England. ALGAO: England co-ordinates the views of its member authorities (93 in total) and presents them to government and to other national organisations.

The range of interests of our members embraces all aspects of the historic environment including archaeology, buildings and the historic landscape which is not designated. Clearly these comments will relate particularly to these aspects.

General Comment on the Practice Guide

Clear and comprehensive guidance is essential if PPS 15 is to be successfully and consistently implemented by local planning authorities and the government’s stated intention of ensuring that there is no reduction in the level of protection for the historic environment is to be achieved.

It is clear that the Practice Guide as published is much less developed than the accompanying PPS15 and it is assumed that the current version is already under review. We have not therefore sought to comment in detail on all of the areas which we feel need revision.

ALGAO represents the specialist advisors to the local planning authorities who will be implementing the PPS and is best placed to offer advice on the current good practice in managing the archaeological aspects of the historic environment through the planning system, which has developed since the publication of PPG15 and PPG16. The final iteration of the practice guidance would, we feel, benefit from the direct involvement of members of the association and from other representative bodies such as the IfA and IHBC who will be responsible for implementing the PPS. ALGAO would welcome the opportunity being involved in such a process.

There are a number of general points that we should like to make:

  • The status of the practice guide needs to be made explicit and the weight to be given to the guidance in it made clear.
  • The guidance document would benefit from an introductory section which it currently lacks.
  • The document also appears to be written very much from an English Heritage perspective and does not reflect well the way in which local authorities function.
  • The wording and terminology used in the guidance needs to be closely aligned with the PPS and this is not currently always the case. Concepts and terms used in the Guidance are not always the same as in the PPS.
  • Whilst accepting that this is a guidance document the language at times is currently too weak and the guidance needs to reflect closely current good practice in dealing with historic environment issues at the local planning level.
  • There are a number of other guidance documents which are referred to in the document and in the PPS, particularly the Principles of Selection and these additional documents need to be published with the guidance document if possible.
  • In addition there are other EH guidance documents that could usefully be referred to such as that on building recording.
  • The document should also make reference to the various guidance and standards documents produced by the IfA which are accepted as the benchmark for good practice by the sector.

Specific Comments on the Practice Guidance

1. Introduction

Paragraphs 6-7
Generally this paragraph is vague in part stemming from trying to take into account the new definition of archaeological interest. In the text box entitled Significance in the fourth paragraph the term ‘place’ is used. This is not used in the PPS and terminology in the guidance should surely reflect the PPS. Similarly the term ‘appraisal’ is used in paragraph 7 and again this is not used or defined in the PPS. This whole paragraph needs reconsideration.

Policy HE1: Evidence base for plan making
The recognition of the importance of Historic Environment Records is particularly welcomed. There is a danger however in giving the implication that all HERs are of a similar standard in terms of content and breadth of information, which is currently not the case. Some authorities have not yet adopted the term HER but have retained the term SMR reflecting the lack of development of their particular record against the Historic Environment Records: Benchmarks for Good Practice, DCMS 2002. The use of the term and the development of HERs from SMRs should be explained to avoid confusion.

In the text box Historic Environment Records the word ‘Typically’’ at the beginning of the second sentence should be removed and there should be an explanation about the continuing use of the term SMR in some authorities.

The fifth line in the text box should read ’…managed by dedicated, expert staff..’ to reflect the emphasis on expert advice elsewhere in the PPS.

In paragraph 10 in the last line of the introductory paragraph the word ‘may ‘ should be replaced by ‘will’.

The fourth bullet point would seem redundant if there is access to an HER and other data sets.

In the sixth bullet point it is not clear what is meant by ‘environmental assessment methods’.

The concept of ‘potential’ needs to be introduced in the guidance as it appears in the PPS.

Policy HE2: Regional planning approach
This should include reference to Regional Research Frameworks.

Policy HE3: Local planning approach
In the opening sentence the words ‘..might consider..’ are too weak and the guidance should reflect the strength of the wording in the PPS more closely.

The second bullet point would be difficult to fulfil and it is arguable whether it is desirable. A HER is a dynamic and constantly developing record. A proposals map would be static and soon out of date. It would be preferable to require consultation with the HER.

The penultimate bullet point is too weak; surely it is necessary to include an overarching historic environment policy in the Core Strategy?

Policy HE4: The historic environment and sustainable development

Policy HE5: Permitted development and Article 4 directions
Paragraph 22 should include archaeological assets as a reason for article 4 directions. Again the wording in the PPS is much stronger.

Policy HE6: Monitoring indicators
There needs to more practical guidance to help local authorities measure changes to the historic environment in meaningful ways.

Policy HE7: Pre-application discussions and assessment
This is a crucial section of the guidance and it is not felt that the current version is well written. It requires considerable revision.

Paragraph 28 should also acknowledge that an application may not be approved even after pre-application discussion.

Paragraph 29 needs reordering to reflect the necessary steps in a more logical way.

The sixth bullet point would be better using the term ‘potential archaeological interest’ to better reflect the wording in the PPS rather than ‘..possible archaeological interest..’ and ‘Where there might be buried remains…’.

The text box under this paragraph is incomplete and we would suggest that the wording of this is discussed with ALGAO and the IfA who have developed standards and guidance on these processes which are acknowledged by historic environment practitioners.

Paragraph 30. It is unclear why Heritage Partnership Agreements are discussed here.

Policy HE8: Information requirements for validation of applications for consent affecting the historic environment
Policy HE 8 is generally welcomed but there is concern over the inconsistent approaches adopted by LPAs. It is also unclear how the policy relates to circular 02/2008 Standard Application Form and Validation paragraphs 26 and 27 which state that validation is an administrative function and the quality of the information submitted should not affect the validation of an application.

As a rule planning applications are not validated by local authority staff with specialist knowledge and the Practice Guidance needs to provide practical advice to the local planning authorities on how to minimise the numbers of applications being validated without adequate information. This is particularly important in two tier authorities where the specialist archaeological advisor is likely to be based at county level.

Policies HE9 and HE10: Policy principles guiding the consideration of applications for development relating to designated and undesignated heritage assets
These policies are a critical stage in the development control process and it is essential that the guidance is clear and details the practical steps needed to comply with the policies. It is not felt that the guidance achieves this as it stands. Again the Association would welcome the opportunity to work with others to improve the wording and organisation of these sections.

Paragraph 33 needs clarifying with better reference to archaeological remains as well as buildings and setting.

Paragraph 34 sets out the principal that a planning authority can require further information after an application has been validated is welcomed but there should be an acknowledgement that an application could still be refused even if further information has been provided, depending on the significance if the asset.

Paragraph 35 sets out the importance of consulting communities on the significance of historic environment assets and this is welcomed. There should be guidance on where in the process this happens; currently it is implied that this happens after the validation of an application.

Paragraph 36 places too much emphasis on climate change, and at some point there needs to be clear guidance as to what is given precedence if conflicts cannot be resolved.

Paragraph 37: The first sentence should read ‘Sites containing and/ or suspected of having the potential to contain archaeological interest...’

Similarly in the first bullet point it should read ‘...through a desk based assessment and/or field evaluation, if required’.

Paragraphs 41-48. This guidance on demolition or destruction with the emphasis on use and viability does not easily accommodate buried archaeological remains or above ground monuments. In most cases there is no realistic possibility of viable reuse and this needs to be clarified in the wording.

Policy HE11: Additional policy principles guiding the consideration of applications for development affecting the setting of a heritage asset

Policy HE12: Additional policy principles guiding development of a heritage asset that is otherwise contrary to the development plan (also known as enabling development)

Policy HE13: Policy principles guiding the recording of information related to the historic environment.
Paragraph 60 should make it clear that a WSI has to be approved by the local planning authority, simply submitting one is not adequate.

The text box we feel could be better worded and organised and we would advise further discussion with ALGAO and IfA on this to ensure it reflects current good practice.

Paragraph 61 we feel is unclear and in the case of the final bullet point at least unrealistic. It is impossible to know in advance what is going to be found particularly if the mitigation involves below ground archaeological assets. It is unclear how the structure, length and detail of the report can be agreed before hand.

Paragraph 63 should make it clear that an archive should be deposited to a suitable repository not ‘..can be offered to a suitable repository..’

Paragraph 65. Some guidance on the discharge of conditions would also be valuable as currently practice clearly varies between planning authorities as to whether to discharge a condition once the field work has been done or only after the results have been appropriately published and the archives deposited.

Paragraphs 105-6: These paragraphs refer to archaeological investigation carried out outside the planning process and, as such, we feel that they are inappropriate here. While guidance on such matters may be useful they should be the subject of a separate and more detailed document.

29 October 2009

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