The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act, which makes the first significant changes to heritage legislation in 23 years, is now law.
The heritage section of this Act happened largely because of the CLA’s lobbying of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) - and it contains a string of changes to listed building law which were on the CLA’s list of desirable changes to previous legislation.
In particular, it makes it clear that parts of buildings can be excluded from listing, merges the now separate Conservation Area Consent into the planning system, allows owners to get a Certificate of Lawful Works confirming formally that specific works do not require listed building consent, allows new “class consents” to be introduced permitting specified change, and gives statutory authority to ‘Heritage Partnership Agreements’ made between owners and local authorities.
Unfortunately, while CLA lobbying inspired the heritage section of the Act, we did not control the detail. Many of these changes, though welcome in principle, will be of only limited benefit in practice. More importantly, the whole system still relies on expert scrutiny by local authorities of every proposal, however small or beneficial, and is thus progressively collapsing as they repeatedly cut their expert staff.
Much more comprehensive reform is needed to deal with this problem, primarily, the streamlining of no-harm proposals recommended by the Penfold Review, however English Heritage and the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) remain opposed to any real reform and it may take some time to achieve.