Thursday, 2 June 2011

New draft policy framework recognises conservation creep

A draft of the new National Planning Policy Framework, written by CLG's advisers, has been released and can be found here.

The section on design reads well.   The heritage section attempts to rewrite PPS5  in plain English and reduce it to three pages, again pretty successfully.  It introduces one or two interesting new ideas too, and the following caught my eye:

'When considering the designation of conservation areas, local planning authorities should ensure that an area justifies such status and that the concept of conservation areas is not devalued through the designation of areas that lack special interest'. 

This is a reference to an aspect of conservation creep that is common (conservation creep is a syndrome and not, it should be made clear, a type of individual).  Conservation areas are meant (by law) to have special architectural or historic interest and are not meant (according to current guidance) to be designated just to stymie development, but both of these requirements are flagrantly ignored as more and more second rate or unremarkable areas are designated by local authorities, often to keep residents' assocations happy.  In a rare legal challenge to designation, a conservation area designation by Tower Hamlets was recently thrown out by the courts.

Another inappropriate, and rather paradoxical, reason for designation is (or was when there was money around) to secure heritage funds for renovation and improvement in decaying and neglected areas. 

It will be interesting to see if this admirable piece of drafting in the new document makes the final cut after consultation.

In the longer term, the measures in the Localism Bill may make it easier for residents' association-type interests to say 'no change round here please', but that will at least be a bit more honest than pretending that some humdrum Victorian terraces have special interest.

( You can read find my comment piece for the RIBA Journal on the challenges for the NPPF, written before the draft referred to above had appeared, here. )

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