What is a Heritage Statement?
A Heritage Statement is a document required by paragraph 189 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This paragraph notes that planning applications affecting a heritage asset should include a study of it.
A heritage asset is a site or a building with a special value that makes it worth protecting from damage. That means that some historic buildings are under legal protection. Therefore, owning a listed building is a kind of guardian role.
Why do I need a Heritage Statement? What is its main purpose?
Paragraph 185 supports the alterations of a heritage assets to keep them alive, and to contribute to the community. Nevertheless, it is essential to preserve the significance of the historic building for future generations. Consequently, not all works will be reasonable nor therefore allowed.
A Heritage Statement studies the building and provides the essence of its importance. Its significance is the combination of characteristics that give the building value. The analysis to understand the significance is essential to evaluate the impact of any works proposed.
Heritage assets are those buildings and their sites that are protected locally, nationally or internationally.
How to analyse the significance of the heritage asset
The Heritage Statement needs to consider a combination of policies and guidance from the National, regional and local authorities. It is also relevant to include the advice provided by Historic England.
The significance is unique to each specific heritage asset. Therefore the exercise requires a combination of site and desk-based research. As a starting point, the analysis requires the information provided by the Historic Environment Record, from Historic England, but also the relevant local archive.
The study involves the history of both the context and the heritage asset, including the possibility of archaeological value. In a closer look at the building, form and materiality are key points. The NPPF establishes that the significance can be one or more of the following categories:
- archaeological interest
- architectural / artistic interest
- historic interest.
Once the significance of the heritage asset is clear, the report should provide an understanding of how the proposal could affect this significance.
Assessing the impact of the proposal
A Heritage Statement, Assessment or Statement of Heritage Significance could also include a Heritage Impact Assessment. This is the part of the report that studies the impact of the proposed alterations.
The report should indicate how the proposal attempts to avoid or minimise any harmful impact on the significance. At the same time, the planners and especially the conservation officer will look at how the proposal tries to enhance the significance particular to that building.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to justify the remedial effort of the negative impact of a proposal when the significance has not been taken into account from the initial design stages. That is why it is crucial to surround yourself with heritage specialists from day one. They can advise you on risks and benefits before you develop a proposal fully.
How detailed does the Heritage Statement needs to be?
The amount of detail required is related to the complexity of the building. For instance, a group of buildings or a statehouse will require a more in-depth report that a two-floor terraced house. Or a grade I listed might need higher consideration than a building of local interest.
The report helps your local authority reach a decision. So you should question yourself if your report is providing enough information for the planners and the conservation officer to judge: Is this proposal contributing to our community? Or is this proposal damaging our local heritage?
How can I improve my document?
Some clients consider that a good heritage statement is that which contains a great list of planning policies. In reality, planners are very familiar with the legal jargon; in fact, they might have even written your local planning policies. Therefore do not think that the strength of your document relies on a list of policies and guidelines. Instead, make sure your document is well illustrated. Chose images that reinforce the message you are trying to get across.
Other benefits of a Heritage Statement
The production of a Heritage Statement allows you to make a better proposal when this is part of the initial stages of your design. It also provides you with quirky knowledge about your building that will make you love it even more.
The report represents an opportunity to record the heritage asset. Once the document is issued as part of the planning application, it will remain in the planning archives for others to learn from.
If you have any queries about heritage statements or would like to contrast some ideas in relation to your planning application, please feel free to contact me.