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IfA responds to the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

The Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) is pleased to see that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for England published today addresses a number of the concerns about the treatment of the historic environment raised by it with Government before, during and after the consultation process. They include

  • recognition that the historic environment makes a positive contribution to society, the economy, our culture and our environment
  • removal of the provision that the default answer to development should be ‘yes’
  • support for Historic Environment Records (and, tacitly, for the dedicated expertise required to support them)
  • clarity that policies in the Framework relating to decision-taking (including those requiring proper consideration of the impact of proposals on the historic environment) apply to Neighbourhood Development Orders as well as other decisions affecting the historic environment
  • clear recognition that the impact of a proposed development on the significance of a heritage asset is a material consideration in determining the application
  • rebalancing the NPPF so that it unambiguously reflects the supremacy of local plans and clearly acknowledges the environmental and social aspects of sustainable development
  • transitional arrangements in Annex 1 to ensure that there is adequate local plan coverage

However, concerns remain, in particular

  • the continued emphasis on economic growth without explicit recognition of the equal importance of environmental and social aspects of sustainable development
  • the continued presence in paragraph 14 of the phrase ‘significantly and demonstrably’ in the presumption in favour of sustainable development unless the adverse effects of development significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits. Nonetheless, IfA welcomes the additional rider in paragraph 14 rebutting the presumption where ‘specific policies in the Framework indicate that development should be restricted’ and the implicit recognition that proposals which contravene such policies protecting the historic environment are unsustainable.

The Institute’s Chief Executive, Peter Hinton, said

‘It was essential that the NPPF carried forward the principles of PPS5 to achieve Government’s twin objectives of conserving the historic environment in a sustainable manner and of ensuring wide public benefit from expert investigations of those elements affected by development. While the NPPF may not contain all the provisions we consider necessary to achieve that end, it provides timely support for the historic environment at a time when local authority archaeology and heritage services continue to be under severe pressure. IfA has campaigned hard to ensure that the NPPF has not brought the end of developer-funded archaeology. What we need now is a firm response from Government to those local authorities that mistakenly believe that they can comply with the framework without securing the services of professional historic environment advisors.’

Tim Howard, IfA Policy Advisor, said

‘To support the historic environment chapter of the Framework, a Practice Guide must strongly reinforce the importance of archaeological standards and accredited expertise. It must ensure appropriate protection in practice of both designated and undesignated heritage assets proportionate to their significance. Our draft Standard and guidance for archaeological advice by historic environment services fulfils a similar aim and sets out what is required for the management of archaeology under the Framework.’

IfA will continue to lobby for improvements to the Framework including Government endorsement of supporting guidance.

Notes for editors

  1. The Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) is a professional body for the study and care of the historic environment. It promotes best practice in archaeology and provides a self-regulatory quality assurance framework for the sector and those it serves.

  2. IfA has over 3,000 members and more than 70 registered organisations across the United Kingdom. Its members work in all branches of the discipline: heritage management, planning advice, excavation, finds and environmental study, buildings recording, underwater and aerial archaeology, museums, conservation, survey, research and development, teaching and liaison with the community, industry and the commercial and financial sectors.

  3. The Institute’s 2012 conference will be in Oxford 18-20 April. Its sessions will cover a range of topics, including the delivery of public benefit through the planning system. Please see www.archaeologists.net/conferences/sessions for more details.

Contacts

Institute for Archaeologists
SHES, University of Reading,
Whiteknights, PO Box 227
Reading, RG6 6AB
0118 378 6446
www.archaeologists.net

Institute for Archaeologists
Miller Building
University of Reading

Reading RG6 6AB

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0118 378 6446