In 2003, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport raised the possibility that the listed building consent and scheduled monument consent regimes could be replaced with a single form of consent.

This proposal is the centrepiece of the long awaited heritage White Paper (‘Heritage Protection for the 21st Century’) issued by DCMS and the Welsh Assembly in March 2007.

If the proposal is pursued, planning practitioners will need to get used to a new term, 'Historic Asset Consent'.

In addition, conservation area consent is proposed to be abolished and, in effect, merged with the existing planning permission regime. There is no suggestion, however, that conservation areas, of which there are approximately 10,000 at present, will be dispensed with, or that levels of protection within existing or future conservation areas will be diminished so far as development proposals are concerned. To reinforce this, it is proposed that new statutory guidance will stipulate that conservation professionals ought to be involved in considering planning applications relevant to conservation areas.

Consistent with these changes, the existing list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest and the schedule of monuments, both compiled by the Secretary of State, will be replaced with a new Heritage Asset Register. The new register will contain information about the asset in a standardised form and also, in respect of new designations, will refer to a map.

Unlike the present system of listed buildings and scheduled monuments, designation will follow a consultation process and, for the first time, there will be a statutory right of appeal.

The proposals are intended to both streamline and simplify the current systems of heritage regulation and are also intended to encourage greater public participation in decisions affecting the historic environment.

The task of unifying the existing regimes in respect of listed buildings and scheduled monuments should not be underestimated. The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 is a very substantial piece of legislation, as is the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. A new, unified system will require new primary legislation of some considerable complexity to replace the two. It remains to be seen when that legislation will be forthcoming.

Other changes are proposed in the White Paper include:

?? a single statutory basis for designation of historic assets;

?? new detailed selection criteria for designation;

?? devolution of responsibility for national designation to English Heritage;

?? the use of statutory management agreements for historic sites;

?? strengthened protection for world heritage sites.