Yesterday, the Government confirmed its legislative aspirations for the new Parliamentary session at the State Opening of Parliament. One of the most notable Bills announced in the Queen’s speech was an English Planning Bill, which follows on from the Planning White Paper published last summer.
While there was no new information in the Queen’s speech or in the background briefing that accompanied it, it did provide confirmation that much of what was included in the White Paper remains the broad intention of the Government.
CIfA has been advocating strongly for the inclusion of workable provisions for archaeology within the new planning system, and has had several meetings with MHCLG and DCMS representatives in recent months. It is clear that the majority of the structure of the new system is still being debated and that much of the vital detail remains subject to further consultation and development. Many questions remain to be answered, with provisions for the historic environment only one issue among many.
We remain concerned that the proposals as currently described have the potential to disrupt established approaches to undertaking archaeological assessment and evaluation in the planning system, and that – despite ministerial assurances that heritage protections will not be undermined – there is a lack of detail that explains how new systems will effectively enable archaeology.
We also remain committed to working with government to assist in the creation of a system which provides more certainty for developers and delivers improvements to existing processes. We believe that there is a real potential for the new system to improve how we deliver public benefit and value for money from archaeological work. However, this will not happen without further work to establish specific provisions on the face of the new Planning Bill.
In addition to the Planning Bill, CIfA is also engaged in discussions on the role of Permitted Development Rights in the planning system, and the future review of Environmental Impact Assessment. In each of these issues, CIfA’s core priority is to ensure that
- screening and scoping of development is undertaken in a way that engages archaeologists at an early stage,
- that sufficient information on the historic environment is obtained and used to inform decision-making,
- that processes for developer-funded archaeological mitigation and offsetting are in place to ensure that development is sustainable, and
- that robust policy provisions are in place to enable this.
We will be carefully monitoring the situation and engaging with both government and colleagues across the heritage sector as progress continues towards a Planning Bill.
Last summer, CIfA members were encouraged to write to their MPs, to raise concerns being championed by CIfA. The response from CIfA members was excellent and has been useful in raising the profile of archaeology in the debate over reform so far.
We will continue to ask CIfA members to engage with their MPs as a Bill comes forward to Parliament in due course.
If you have any questions about planning reform or CIfA’s advocacy, please contact email@example.com.