This morning Rt Hon Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, announced a new campaign challenging local authorities across England to draw up, or bolster, their lists of buildings of local architectural or historic interest.
The overall intention is to raise awareness of local heritage in a manner that will empower local people “to protect thousands of historic buildings and preserve them for future generations”.
The scope of the campaign is ambitious and admirable, seeking to raise awareness of the value of local heritage at a time when developers are often accused of stripping it away.
Certainly on the surface, locally listing more buildings appears democratic and more transparent. Even where there are already well-established lists, more buildings would be identified as meriting consideration in planning decisions and therefore enabling local people to feel that their heritage is being considered properly.
There are also conservation benefits and many of these historic buildings would become eligible for funding which will help to revitalise those in poor condition, and others that need repurposing.
However, in order to implement the campaign successfully, decision-makers must enforce a rigorous criteria-based assessment when considering eligibility.
The alternative is that the pool of Locally Listed Buildings could be diluted by the inclusion of those with only a small measure of local interest.
The other consideration is that local listing might be used more frequently to discourage the development process, with groups nominating buildings that are subject to emerging or current planning applications.
Fundamentally, of course, the proliferation of local listing will not change the planning status of these buildings. So while the Communities Secretary is seeking to 'preserve' buildings through local listing, one must be mindful of the following:
- Locally Listed Buildings do not benefit from statutory protection (unlike listed buildings);
- Locally Listed Buildings often benefit from permitted development rights; and
- An impact on the heritage significance of Locally Listed Building is generally of equal weight to any other planning consideration.
Our built heritage is one of the things that make England one of the top tourist destinations in the world. It helps us attract millions of visitors every year who are keen to see the historic buildings at the heart of our communities, helping to boost our economy and make our towns and cities better places to live, work and visit.