National Planning Policy Framework – Heritage Assets and Conservation

Back To All Blogs
Posted By

One of the areas considered in the Government’s recently published review of the perceived barriers to retrofitting energy efficiency measures into historic homes in England report, was the planning system. In this blog, BWF Technical Director, Kevin Underwood expands on what the National Planning Policy Framework says about heritage assets and conservation, how the planning system should be used to ensure well designed and beautiful places, and how these two considerations can have a significant bearing on the choice of timber products, such as windows and doors, for any property or development.


Heritage assets, such as buildings of local historic value, are an irreplaceable resource, and should be conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of existing and future generations. However, when considering the designation of conservation areas, local planning authorities should ensure that an area justifies such status because of its special architectural or historic interest, and that the concept of conservation is not devalued through the designation of areas that lack special interest.

In determining applications, local planning authorities should take account of the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets and putting them to viable uses consistent with their conservation and the positive contribution that conservation of heritage assets can make to sustainable communities. They should also consider the desirability of new development making a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness.

Any harm to, or loss of, the significance of a designated heritage asset from its alteration or destruction, or from development within its setting, should require clear and convincing justification. For example, substantial harm to, or loss of, grade II listed buildings should be exceptional, while assets of the highest significance, such as grade I and II* listed buildings, should be wholly exceptional.

Local planning authorities should look for opportunities for new development within conservation areas and within the setting of heritage assets, to enhance or better reveal their significance. Proposals that preserve those elements of the setting that make a positive contribution to the asset, or which better reveal its significance, should be treated favourably.

Local planning authorities should assess whether the benefits of a proposal for enabling development, which would otherwise conflict with planning policies, but which would secure the future conservation of a heritage asset, outweigh the disbenefits of departing from those policies.

The creation of high quality, beautiful and sustainable buildings is fundamental to what the planning and development process should achieve. Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development, it creates better places in which to live and work and helps make development acceptable to communities.

To provide maximum clarity about design expectations at an early stage, all local planning authorities should prepare design guides or codes. These can be prepared at an area-wide, neighbourhood or site-specific scale, and to carry weight in decision-making, should be produced either as part of a plan or as supplementary planning documents. Landowners and developers may contribute to these exercises but may also choose to prepare design codes in support of a planning application for sites they wish to develop. Whoever prepares them, all guides and codes should be based on effective community engagement and reflect local aspirations for the development of their area, taking into account the guidance contained in the National Design Guide and the National Model Design Code. These national documents should be used to guide decisions on applications in the absence of locally produced design guides or design codes.

Planning policies and decisions should ensure that developments are visually attractive as a result of good architecture, layout and appropriate and effective landscaping, that they are sympathetic to local character and history, and they establish or maintain a strong sense of place, using the arrangement of streets, spaces, building types and materials to create attractive, welcoming and distinctive places to live, work and visit.

Development that is not well designed should be refused, especially where it fails to reflect local design policies and government guidance on design considering any local design guidance and supplementary planning documents such as design guides and codes.

Local planning authorities should ensure that relevant planning conditions refer to clear and accurate plans and drawings which provide visual clarity about the design of the development, and are clear about the approved use of materials where appropriate. This will provide greater certainty for those implementing the planning permission on how to comply with the permission and a clearer basis for local planning authorities to identify breaches of planning control. Local planning authorities should also seek to ensure that the quality of approved development is not materially diminished between permission and completion as a result of changes being made to the permitted scheme, for example, through changes to approved details such as the materials used.

Posted By
Proud to be part of
Member of Construction Products Association
National Specialist Contractors Council
Passive Fire Protection Federation
The Alliance for Sustainable Building Products