The NPPF has placed final responsibility for the care of local places firmly in the hands of local people, and if they want to succeed, specialist support inside local authorities is essential: a conservation officer!
Following the publication of the NPPF, the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), the professional body for built and historic environment conservation specialists, is highlighting the need for skilled conservation professionals in local authorities if local people are to secure the places they want!
IHBC Policy Secretary Mike Brown said: ‘As Eric Pickles says: “local communities have the responsibility and the power to decide the look and feel of the places they love”.’
‘What is less clear to the public at large is that the local plan – so long on the margins of planning – is the tool to focus on again. If that isn’t working right, then there is little hope for the future of local places. Without local policies, the NPPF’s generic presumption in favour of growth will take precedence.’
‘Anyone who cares about their local area needs to contact their local planning authority conservation officer or service – or get one established if, like many in recent years, they have been discarded – and ask for their help in re-vitalising the local plan. They also need to be sure that skilled conservation planning practitioners are shaping the changes on the ground, through development control. You now have twelve months to ensure that your local planning authority is giving you the conservation service you need!’
IHBC Government Liaison Secretary Bob Kindred said: ‘There’s lots of research showing that the Conservation Officer is the best way to deliver the kind of informed, sensible and balanced outcomes that will accord with the terms of the new NPPF, as well as the existing statutory duties of the local authorities.’
‘Moreover, the Conservation Officer is often best placed to contribute to design solutions that fit in with local circumstances, even when there is no obvious risk to designated heritage. So they can play a huge role in the design and development priorities registered in the NPPF as well as the mainstream considerations in the historic environment.’
‘Nothing highlights this more than the delicate balance between good design and existing townscapes identified in paragraph 65 of the NPPF – one of its most challenging aspects. Incompatibility with an existing townscape should not lead to the refusal for highly sustainable development IF those concerns have been mitigated by ‘good design’. The advice of skilled conservation specialists is essential to achieve an informed balance between the new concept of ‘significance’ in the historic environment and the old nugget of new design!’
For research on the added values of Conservation Officers and Services see: LINK
For the Civic Voice’s survey of neighbourhood planning needs see: LINK
To understand why local authorities need Conservation Officers: LINK
Find the download link for the NPPF here: LINK