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        Picking up the Bill

           Wolverhampton Wonderers


Historic Environment Records Forum Summer Meeting

24th June 2008, Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Wolverhampton


View from the Chair

Stuart Cakebread


It was good to see so many of you at the summer meeting in Wolverhampton, our largest meeting so far I think, particularly as this has been the first meeting that we have looked at the Draft Heritage Protection Bill.


Since April there have been various discussions and comments from a range interested parties on the DHPB, so it was good to be able to devote the morning sessions, the first of no doubt many future sessions, to the implications for us HEROs and one particular key user group: conservation officers.  Dave Batchelor kicked off the discussion by giving some background and context to the drafting of the Bill; that the Heritage Protection Bill is likely to be bundled together with an Antiquities Bill, and a rundown on the funding for implementing the expected changes.


Next up Stewart Bryant gave an ALGAO view of what was, or not, currently in the Bill, no real surprises, and what work is required to get us ready for the likely 2010 implementation date and after.  It seems we have a lot of work to do.


Finally Sue Whitehouse presented a conservation officers view of the Bill.  Whilst supportive there is concern over what has been omitted so far from the Bill, and its impact on the workload of already overstretched conservation officers. Closer co-operation between HEROs and COs, and interoperability between systems is clearly essential.


Both Dave and Stewart raised the point in their presentations that the passing of the Bill is not a certainty. Amendments by both Houses could water down or change the focus of the Bill, and future political events could mean that it is not passed at all; both situations may have serious implications for the future of local government historic environment services.


After lunch Cat Cload and Suzie Blake gave an update on the Heritage Gateway, and the new MIDAS Heritage HER Compliance Profile.  This was followed by Elaine Willett and Crispin Flower on the work they have been doing for Natural England on the SHINE (Selected Heritage Inventory for Natural England) project. Next up after a quick tea break Rachael Sturgeon and Janet Davis demonstrated the work they has been involved with on the Parks & Gardens UK website (it’s good so have a look


Rounding off the day Victoria Bryant talked about the Worcestershire HER and how it is improving public access to the wide range of information it holds. Sorry Victoria, and to those who missed any of Victoria’s presentation, for running out of time at the end; won’t happen again.


I’d just like to thank Mike Shaw and Nick Davis for organising the day, and also all our speakers for giving up their time to attend. I hope everyone found the talks interesting and if you have any suggestions for future meetings please let Nick or myself know. 


Don’t forget our next meeting is in Edinburgh on the 11th December 2008.     



The Draft Heritage Protection Bill: its implications for HERs

Three speakers were invited to present their views on the recently published draft Heritage Protection Bill. Presentations were delivered by Dave Batchelor, from English Heritage’s Local Authority Historic Environment Liaison team; Stewart Bryant, Chair of ALGAO: England and Historic Environment Officer for Hertfordshire; and Sue Whitehouse, a Conservation Officer for Wolverhampton, and representative of the IHBC. Both ALGAO and IHBC are currently preparing formal responses to the draft Bill itself. Although these individual presentations should not be seen as direct reflections of these organisational responses, many of the key ideas and themes carry across.


The HER Forum itself has a membership which extends throughout Britain and (to a more limited extent) overseas. The context of these presentations, however, focussed exclusively on the English situation (outside Greater London). It should be noted that different circumstances exist elsewhere in the United Kingdom and within the capital.  


Summaries of these presentations are provided below.


Views on the Draft HP Bill

Dave Batchelor, English Heritage


Since the close of the White paper consultation in June 2007, things have moved considerably within a closed process.  Initially, it was intended that government departments should have sole responsibility for drafting the Bill, however, English Heritage also became involved in the process.  The draft Bill is essentially a set of instructions to Government, drafted in legal terminology by lawyers.  This does not necessarily make it ‘easy reading’, although it is accompanied by useful guidance notes to what it is intended by the legal language in the Bill itself.


By December 2007, it became apparent that not all of the Bill would be drafted within the timescale allowed. Thus a decision was made to produce a Draft Bill with elements missing (for example Conservation Areas), to the same deadline. Alongside the Draft Bill, an Impact Assessment was also published, looking at the positive and negative impacts of the Bill on interested parties, as well as containing information about funding.


The period of consultation on the Bill closes at the beginning of July.  It will then go to Scrutiny by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, and all responses to the consultation will be looked at. The Heritage Bill has been promised a legislative slot in the Queen’s Speech later this year, with the intention that it will go before the House in early 2009.  The volatile nature of politics means that this is by no means a definite timetable. It is also likely that the Heritage Protection Bill will be bundled together with an Antiquities Bill, producing a piece of composite legislation.  Interest in the Antiquities Bill may mean that Heritage Protection elements attract unwarranted attention.


In contextual terms, the Bill is closely allied to the changes in Local Government.  The map of local government, roles and responsibilities is changing considerably, with a shift towards partnership at all levels. Local Authorities are morphing into different structures with increasing pressure being felt for more Unitary bodies. There is also the Planning Reform Bill, which has been produced by CLG.  The Planning Bill advocates increased use of electronic means of communication through the Planning Portal and OneApp.  Emphasis here is being placed on pre-application procedures and informed consultation. This all impacts on how the Historic Environment will need to interface with the Planning Process in the future.


In the Bill itself, paragraphs 210 to 214 relate directly to HERs.  The Draft Bill recognises that Best Practice exists and builds on that. It also recognises that HERs are integral to the processes of Planning, since the information contained within them manages risk within the system. As such, they need to be interoperable within a Planning context, hence the Draft Bill advocates their statutory status. The statutory duty itself falls on Upper Tier Authorities, Unitaries and National Park Authorities. This duty can be discharged in a number of ways, since the function could be delivered by a third party (ie combined services serving a Local Authority). Any arrangements of this kind would be expected to be covered by a formal and legally-binding agreement. Where there is a District HER, statutory duty will still lie with the Local Authority. It should be noted that it will be the record itself which will be statutory rather than the advice associated with it.


Funding has been identified by the DCMS as falling into two categories: costs for implementation and annual or recurrent costs.  DCMS has recognised that there is an ongoing cost for running an HER.  The annual budget for 2010, the first year of statutory status, has been calculated in the order of £240k, rising to £565k by the third year.  Annual or recurrent costs will be made by government departmental transfer as an enhancement to the Revenue Support Grant to those Authorities eligible for it. EH is currently investigating whether that enhancement can be ring-fenced in any way rather than just becoming part of the general support ‘pot’. It is recognised that all those Authorities on whom the statutory duty will rest will be eligible for this support.

Funding for the implementation of Heritage Protection Reform has been identified in the Comprehensive Spending Review for English Heritage. It is too early to say how that implementation budget will be divided up amongst the priorities of HPR, which includes HERs. However, what is certain is that funding will only be allocated for actively implementing HPR, and not for clearing backlogs etc.


A raft of statutory guidance, issued by a number of different organisations, will sit underneath the Bill itself. DCMS has already produced its Guidance for HERs and for Ecclesiastical Exemptions.


To conclude: the local authority context is currently volatile and the Parliamentary process an unknown which is entirely beyond our control. The Draft Bill is certain to be subject to changes, either by the Select Committee or through Parliamentary amendments. The Queen’s speech will, however, probably provide a clearer picture of how matters are likely to progress.  


The Bill: A Conservation Officer’s viewpoint

Sue Whitehouse, Wolverhampton City Council and IHBC


This presentation deals with the IHBC joint response to the Draft Heritage Bill. This response will be made in conjunction with the RTPI and (possibly) also the RICS, POS and RIBA. The IHBC’s response is, generally speaking, a statement of collective strategic support, echoing the Draft Bill’s aspiration for greater sectoral engagement.

One of the principal issues as far as the Institute is concerned is the incomplete nature of the Draft Bill as it presently stands. Their reaction has consequently been as much concerned with what has been left out as with what has been included. Figuring prominently amongst these issues is the omission of any details of Conservation Areas and the limited consideration apparently given to World Heritage Sites and Local Listing. (Conservation Areas are an especially perplexing matter since controls can vary from area to area depending on local interpretation of the planning regulations. Also the Article 4 directions presently used to provide additional controls are badly in need of simplification and clarification.). It is to hoped that the opportunity will not be missed to address some of these issues in the final draft of the Bill.


More specific omissions (or idiosyncrasies) can be highlighted in examining the detail of the Draft Bill in relation to the content of HERs: Section 210(2) makes no reference to Conservation Areas and part (d) should mention Conservation Area appraisals. In part (e), meanwhile there is an interesting use of wording specifying that HERs will contain other sites of archaeological interest (whilst the words historic, architectural and artistic have has been consistently used in similar contexts throughout the remainder of the document).     


Also, whilst the need for supporting legislation is acknowledged in the Draft Bill, what does not appear to have been picked up is the huge amount of supporting guidance that will be required to underpin both this measure and the resulting review of PPGs 15 and 16.


Turning to the question of resources available to Conservation Officers to implement the Bill’s recommendations, current statistics suggest that about one third of planning applications have an impact on the historic environment. It is difficult to anticipate how the new legislation will affect this workload and the estimates presently being put forward have the appearance of having been tailored towards not ‘frightening the horses’.


More statistics recently gleaned indicate that the number of local planning authorities who have no internal conservation service is presently above 10% and that 2% take no conservation advice whatsoever. If accurate this would certainly seem to underline the resource issues already facing this element of the sector. IHBC are keen to stress not only that expert and informed advice and skills are an essential requirement but that these must be firmly embedded within the planning service. Related to this there is some concern that the legislation underpinning the work of conservation officers is no longer a ‘planning’act but comes under DCMS.


Consideration should also be given to the migration of existing designations onto the new Register and the practicalities involved in this process. How will the statutory requirement ot consult be dealt with in respect of the migration of existing listed buildings? Taking as an example the statutory lists currently employed by local authorities, these currently comprise a brief description of the building’s exterior used in combination with a 1:10000 location map. What might be hoped for under the new system would be a precise description of what aspects of the building are considered important, and what falls within the remit of its protected status. IHBC welcomes the statement that the extent of designations must be defined on maps.


IHBC welcomes proposed clarification regarding defining the curtilage of a listed building. Curtilage presents complex procedural issues for some sites (which helps to explain why this is an obsession for many COs!) and this information should be held on HERs. However, when examining the scale of the backlog that this would entail, unsettling possibilities are brought to light: given a reasonably brisk rate of progress, one person might be expected to complete the mapping backlog for the 443,000 listed buildings which presently exist in around 295 years.


The fact that HPR will now almost certainly result in statutory HERs is something about which IHBC is broadly happy, with the proviso that these are fully integrated within the planning system. Illustrations can, however, be provided of existing shortcomings that need to be remedied before this ideal can be conformed to. In terms of the mechanisms underpinning pre-applications most local authorities now have on-line versions of their constraint maps publicly available. What these can include, however, is surprisingly variable. For example, if the Wolverhampton map is consulted it will give no indication as to whether a building is listed or whether there is any likelihood of archaeology existing within the area.


Considering, in the same context, e-planning computer systems (or at least thier listed buildings content), would this not be more or less superfluous if satisfactory links were created to HER records? There appears to be no real need to create and maintain a parallel system of this type. Much support will be required from HER Officers, however, if the new integrated system is to provide information that is both accurate and comprehensive. Work will also be required to explore the practicalities of integrating e-planning systems and HERs (this being an area in which Conservation Officers sometimes lack skills and almost always time). The plea in short would be ‘Conservation Officers will need help’.          


Finally turning to the subject of Special Local Interest, an obligation will now fall upon local authorities to draw up the criteria to support this concept. However, whist part of the legislation specifies the requirement that owners are consulted in this respect, no mention is made of what interim protection can be provided, as is the case for sites under consideration for the Register. How is this element of the process to be controlled?


The powers to determine what constitutes Special Local Interest will, it seem likely, be conferred upon the Districts. There seems, though, to be another possible disjunction here in that, whilst the informal lists currently underpinning SLI are held by the Districts the definitive record will reside at County level. How will the new decision making mechanisms span this rift and how can further conflicts be avoided?


In summary, what is required is:

·         integration of HERs with planning services

·         More holistic content for HERs

·         An extension of the skill-base of HER officers/managers to deal with the built environment

·         Resources  (both in term of people and technology)


What we need is not more HERs but more effective HERs.



HERs and HPR 2008

Stewart Bryant ,ALGAO England


At the outset, it is important to remember that the provisions for HERs that are contained within the draft Heritage Bill and the draft Statutory Guidance on HERs are the end (or hopefully near the end) of a long process that began way back in the early 1990s with the publication of the Heritage Green Paper (which of us can still remember that ?).  Other significant publications along the way include Power of Place (2000), and the Heritage White Paper in 2007.   It is also a reminder to this author that he and colleagues from ALGAO and English Heritage have also given presentations on a number of occasions over the past 10 years (and  more in some cases), mostly looking forward with hope to new policy and legislation.  It’s also interesting (and nostalgic to some extent) therefore, now that the all important statutory documents have been published, to look back at some of these more recent presentations, and to be able to use/recycle some of their content for this presentation.

For example, many of the points made in this presentation were also made in a presentation given at the HER Forum Summer meeting in 2006 at
York,(looking forward to the Heritage White Paper ) and also at the conference organised by the Society of Antiquaries in April 2007, (looking at the implications of the then newly published Heritage White Paper).


The important point therefore is that there are no real surprises in the draft legislation and guidance and that many of the predictions made in the past have been borne out, which I hope is good news. There are, however, one or two issues that are worthy of comment. There is (as might be expected) a limited amount of detail in important areas such as standards for HER content, although it is hoped that these will be forthcoming soon.  Also, although it’s very difficult at this stage to be precise, the costs outlined in the Resource Assessment may be too low (although not greatly so) for the programme envisaged.

Implications for HERs

In all probability there may not be many operational implications for HERs, at least in the short term. In general terms, the draft Bill and the HERs guidance seem to have the objective of making the current network of HERs statutory without making too many new costly commitments. This makes the proposals practical and sound, although it could be argued perhaps that are somewhat lacking in ambition. However, it was probably never realistic to have expected much more.


The main benefits of the provision of the draft Bill and guidance will be political, hinging on the security and support that statutory status will give to HERs. It’s also important to appreciate that for the first (and possibly last) time, HERs and local government archaeology are part of the process of real politics, a process which is unpredictable and has its own rules.


Without Statutory status it is unlikely in the opinion of the author, that the current framework of HERs would survive as we know it beyond the next five years given circumstances such as Local Government Review and the predicted increased funding problems for local authorities from 2010.  Although some HERs may survive unscathed, many are likely to be starved of resources, leading to greater disparity been the ‘good’ and less good HERs. It is also likely that some HERs may effectively cease to exist, either because of a deliberate decision to axe the service or more likely because there are no resources to update the record for a period of time.


Developments in HERs before 2010?

A few suggestions for actions that could be undertaken between now and the implementation of new legislation in 2009 and 2010 follow below:


 A ‘map’ should be produced as quickly as possible by EH and the DCMS outlining the structure of the guidance documents that will sit below the high-level statutory guidance. A strategy (endorsed by the sector) and an implementation plan should also be devised which might take the form of a new ‘vision’ for HERs.


At a more detailed level tasks could include:

  • structuring a programme of work to deal with MIDAS compliance for all HERs
  •  identifying a basic core standard and ensuring all HERs meet this standard and the production of standards and guidance such as for enhancing historic buildings information
  • guidance on HERs and local lists;
  • reviewing and/or replacing the Benchmarking system;
  • identifying priorities for data-enhancement and backlogs;
  • undertaking a user needs survey and analysis;
  • structuring guidance on the relationship between Events/Monuments /Archives based HER data and the new Statutory Register
  • and ensuring that 70-80% of HERs are online by 2010, mostly via the Heritage Gateway.


Implementation After 2010      

This will be dependent upon the detail of the standards and guidance produced by EH and DCMS (hopefully with the assistance of local government) including the proposed new Heritage PPS and its supporting documentation. 


Looking forward with a degree of speculation, it is possible to identify some general areas of development:


o        HERs developing the information resource for the effective designation  and management of heritage assets the new Statutory Register.  This could include the integration of management information within HERs and the use of HERs as an information resource for national, thematic designation

o        Developing the non-statutory information resources including Local Lists/Registers, historic landscape and character data, historic buildings (including 19th and 20th century) and scientific data (palaeoenvironmental, dendrochronology etc)

o        Producing planning notification area, to agreed standards, for e-planning, allowing for automated consultation, including for pre-application proposals

o        Developing public access and education for HERs, via online resources including user-defined interfaces and glossaries.  



Links to other presentations delivered at this HER Forum are provided below:

·         Elaine Willett (Rural Development Officer, ALGAO England) and Crispin Flower (exeGesIS): Selected National Heritage Dataset Enhancement Project – An Update

·          Janet Davis and Rachael Sturgeon (Parks and Gardens Data Services): Parks and Gardens UK – Website and database of historic parks, gardens and designed landscapes

·          Victoria Bryant (HER Manager, Worcestershire County Council): The HER as a Search Engine: Improving accessibility to historic data