The speakers were Mike Harlow, Legal Director of English Heritage, Roger Dowty, Conservation Manager Brighton and Hove City Council, Tony Allen, Chris Barker and Huw James, who are members of our Heritage Planning Team.

In 2008 the Department for Culture Media and Sport introduced a Heritage Protection Bill, with the stated intention of reforming and unifying the terrestrial and marine heritage protection systems in England and Wales.

In the Queen’s speech that Autumn, the Bill was conspicuously abandoned, to allow more time for parliamentary debate on more important matters, such as the financial crisis.

Having lost their new legislation, our understanding is that DCMS, with DCLG and English Heritage, decided to rescue what they could from the wreckage by revising the policy framework for “Heritage Assets”, which brings us to the documents we discussed at the Seminar.

The basic framework is a short policy document, PPS 5 itself, with a more discursive Practice Guide. (Anyone searching a replacement for Annex C of PPG 15 will find it, in slightly less dogmatic form, at Chapter 6 of the Practice Guide).

As the PPS states, its policies are a material consideration which must be taken into account in development management decisions where relevant. We therefore stressed the importance of the PPS and the Practice Guide for any work involving Heritage Assets or Designated Heritage Assets (as defined in the PPS).

The definition “Heritage Assets” is somewhat wider than any provided by statute, and open ended to the extent that any land or building may be identified, potentially during the process of a planning application, as a Heritage Asset, which has significant implications for decision making in relation to that land or building.

We also stressed the need to treat the significance of Heritage Assets and the impact of any proposed development on them proportionately.

Chris Barker and Huw James discussed some worked examples, including the identification of Heritage Assets by reference to their previous celebrity occupiers, rather than any architectural or historical importance.

Because it makes so many significant changes, some of which are unsupported by statute, in our opinion the new Planning Policy Statement is likely to lead to some difficult decisions, and disputes which will need to be resolved in the Courts. We will therefore be monitoring such decisions and providing advice to enable readers better to understand the implications of the PPS in future editions of this e-bulletin.

The next development is likely to be the publication by English Heritage on the definition and assessment of “setting of Heritage Assets” which we will cover as soon as more information is available.