Historic Environment Policy & the Planning System

An analysis of how existing historic environment policies are utilised within the planning system.

In anticipation of last week’s publication of the revised Historic Environment Policy for Scotland, BEFS decided to undertake an analysis of how existing historic environment policies are utilised within the planning system. Analysing their use at a local authority level would be a mammoth task so we narrowed the parameters by looking at how they are used in the appeal process, arguably the sharp end of the planning process and often seen as the true test of policy.  We have had the good fortune of having Susannah Gibbin, a third year undergraduate from the University of Edinburgh, with us this semester and we tasked Susannah with analysing all Listed Building Consent Appeals that were decided by the Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals in 2018.

Documentation for 70 cases decided is available and Susanna analysed them for references to national and local policies on the historic environment, and national guidance on the historic environment.

  • 17% reference Scottish Planning Policy 2014 (SPP)
  • 96% refer to the relevant Local Development Plan policy (LDP)
  • 46% reference Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement 2016 (HESPS)
  • 41% reference Managing Change Guidance series
  • 46% reference correspondence from Historic Environment Scotland
  • 46% reference the relevant Conservation Area Character Appraisal
  • 53% of appeals were dismissed, 47% allowed but analysis reveals no significant statistical difference as to how policies were referenced between the two outcomes.

The references to Scottish Planning Policy are very brief, as are those to the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement albeit with occasional paragraph references (3.38-3.39 and 3.45-3.47). Intriguingly three cases refer to Scottish Historic Environment Policy, 2 years after it has been withdrawn.

Conservation Area Character Appraisals, while referenced, are not quoted. Various documents from the Managing Change guidance series are referred to, with that on Windows being the most frequent.

It is noteworthy that while nearly all cases refer to the relevant local development plan policies, less than 50% rely upon other historic environment policies.

It may be that decisions at a local authority level are more dependent upon national policy and guidance than the DPEA – a quick sample from one local authority’s recent LBC decisions suggests that the Managing Change guidance series is frequently referenced. Arguably local development plan policies align with both SPP and HESPS (or its predecessor SHEP) so reference to more detailed guidance is all that we should expect. It does highlight the importance of getting LDP policies right.

Given that the new Historic Environment Policy for Scotland has been in development for a number of years, with excellent public and sector wide engagement, we welcome the training that Historic Environment Scotland are already making available before it is due to be formally adopted on the 1st of May 2019.