Context 159 - May 2019

38 C O N T E X T 1 5 9 : M A Y 2 0 1 9 had been fully consulted throughout the process through a number of public meetings, and monthly progress reports in the parish magazine and on the village website. The prime objective for the whole plan was explicitly stated as ‘To nurture and protect the natural and built environment of the village for future generations to enjoy’, and the various policies on housing, tourism and the economy were set against that objective. Both conserva- tion areas already had character appraisals and management plans which had been adopted by the council in 2004. In order to complement these studies, an analysis of the village outside the conservation areas was undertaken which identified two additional areas of such historic significance that it was felt they should form part of the designated boundaries of the existing con- servation areas. One of these was the field which the council wanted to take out of the green belt. The character appraisals were beginning to show signs of their age and a number of the proposals in the management plans had been achieved. We recognised that it was not within the scope of a neighbourhood plan to alter the conservation area boundaries or to modify the supporting documentation, but in order to fully achieve the stated objective we had at least hoped to get a commitment from the council to take our suggestions forward in parallel with the plan. However, although we enjoyed good relations with the conservation team, we were given a blunt refusal as they thought that their limited resources were better employed in tackling the backlog of conservation plans for less-well-protected areas. Although we under- stood the reasoning, it left us in a dilemma as to the best way to proceed with establishing an up-to-date and more nuanced approach which fully recognised the contribution of its history to the character of Dorchester. It was Historic England, as one of our statu- tory consultees, who suggested a more creative way of resolving our dilemma. If we identified what they called ‘heritage areas’, we could then formulate policies that applied to that wider area and addressed the deficiencies in the character appraisals. This could legitimately act as an interim measure of protection until the conser- vation areas were revised in due course. In order to make this explicit, we included a series of ‘proposals’ (not policies) in the text which were described as ‘important elements in the manage- ment of the historic character of Dorchester’ and which should be subject to the same council policies as the designated conservation areas.We provided a detailed evidence base for the pro- posals and a fully justified list of undesignated heritage assets and other features which had been missed in the character appraisals. The latter was of considerable importance because the local authority had never compiled a proper list of undesignated assets or adopted policies which would protect them. Some of the buildings had been noted on the conservation area appraisal maps, but we were able to identify other buildings which had been missed and to go outside the conservation area to include outlying structures.The ‘proposals’ then formed the basis for three separate policies. These covered the historic environment, undesignated buildings of interest, and views and vistas, while acknowledg- ing that they touched on matters which it was hoped that the council would address in future. It was reassuring that this strategy was fully endorsed by the independent inspector and the policies are now part of the ‘made’ plan. The identification of heritage areas has enabled us to provide the extra protection necessary to achieve our visionwhichwas set out as the primary objective of our plan. Given the reluctance of the local planning authority to adopt our detailed and informed modifications to its existing policies, I would thoroughly recommend a similar strategy to others who are preparing their neighbourhood development plans. It would be interesting know whether Historic England has suggested the same tactic elsewhere or whether this was a unique response to our own circumstances. The adopted plan for Dorchester can be viewed on the website of South Oxfordshire District Council ( ). Professor Malcolm Airs is emeritus fellow at Kellogg College, Oxford A second-world- war pillbox that was identified as an undesignated heritage asset outside the conservation area Dorchester on Thames from the air