The National Organisation of Residents Associations (NORA) has members representing nearly two million residents in England and Wales.
They vary from representing historic towns and cities to villages and estates. Their opinion has been sought on this response to the DCMS Consultation Paper,
and it has been approved by those members with an interest in the subject.
At present applications dealing with work on listed buildings may demand three consents. There is listed building consent for any work on the site,
planning consent if the changes warrant it and building regulations approval if the work involves structural work or changes to basic services.
The one change that is required, and which NORA members support, is the amalgamation of the Listed Building Consent, currently a free service, with the planning consent.
The opinion of conservation officers will be sufficient for some applications, but, where planning consent is currently also required, such consent should take account of the
professional view of the relevant conservation officer. It will also lead to adequate public advertisement, which allows the community and amenity groups to express
its opinion. It maintains local democracy and meets the government's policy of supporting localism.
In NORA's opinion the proposals in this Consultation Paper are unnecessary. Our listed buildings comprise the UK heritage giving pleasure to those privileged to live in them
and to those who visit them or just walk past. Conservation officers have the training, the experience and an impartial approach to conservation of listed buildings.
Their involvement in approving proposals affecting listed buildings should not be diminished by granting permitted development rights to developers.
Planning officers already advise whether or not a full planning application is required, and this facility is also available to conservation officers in relation to
listed buildings. Even when planning consent or listed building consent is currently required, both planning officers and conservation officers under certain circumstances
have the power to grant consent using delegated powers making it unnecessary to change the regime for listed buildings.
NORA is concerned that these DCMS proposals in giving the equivalent of permitted development rights to developers of listed buildings could hazard their integrity,
and will remove the ability of the community and amenity societies to express their opinions. There should be no need to seek help from professionals outside the
Local Planning Authority (LPA). To give power to outside bodies to make decisions on developments to listed buildings would undermine the planning regime,
reduce the authority of LPAs and deny the community and amenity societies the opportunity to express their opinions.
RESPONSE to QUESTIONNAIRE
Question 1: Do you agree with the proposal to introduce a system of prior notification of works to a listed building, leading to deemed Listed Building Consent
if the local planning authority does not request a full application within 28 days? If not, please clearly state your reasons and your views on the approach
you consider the Government should take.
′Yes′ to the prior notification but ′no′ to the granting of deemed planning consent.
There is already the optional facility for applicants to provide the LPA with prior notification of proposed works to a listed building, but sadly it is not always used.
NORA would support making it mandatory to provide such notification prior to any work on a listed building with the proviso that emergency work should be notified immediately.
Using pre-application consultation would enable LPAs to waive the need for a full planning application where considered appropriate, but to designate a time scale of
28 days is unwise, since in some cases a longer period of consultation might be needed. Since waiving the need for planning consent is tantamount to granting planning consent,
the relevant waiting period for acknowledgement of the need for a full planning consent should at least equate to the six weeks pertaining to planning applications.
Question 2: If you are commenting from a Local Planning Authority, are you able to comment on the proportion of your LBC applications which require amendment or the
application of non-standard conditions prior to consent? If you are able to supply supporting information, please set it out clearly, or indicate where it can
easily be accessed.
Question 3: Do you agree with the proposal to introduce a voluntary system of local and national class consents? If not, please clearly state your reasons and
your views on the approach you consider the Government should take.
The variety of listed buildings is so great that to devise some common features would be difficult and add unnecessary complexity to the system.
It would conflict with the aim of ensuring decisions were taken locally and not dictated by central government.
The fraternity of consultation officers and national heritage bodies is sufficiently close for local decisions to be governed by the
general respect for the conservation of listed buildings. There is no need to add local or national class consents to the documentation already agreed.
Question 4: If you are commenting from a Local Planning Authority, are you able to comment on the likely applicability of this option (2) within your area,
in terms of the kinds of listed building and type of works to which it might be applied? If you are able to supply supporting information, please set it out clearly,
or indicate where it can easily be accessed.
Question 5: Which of the options set out in this consultation to reduce the number of LBC applications for works with limited or justifiable harm to special interest
(Options 1 and 2) do you prefer? Please state the reasons for your preference.
The answer to Q1 describes NORA's preferred approach, which is a modification of the proposal. It ensures that work on listed buildings
does not commence until the LPA is aware of it, and it also ensures that only work that meets the criterion of not needing planning consent takes place
without planning consent. It is a comparable approach to that found in relation to work on protected trees.
Question 6: Do you agree with the proposal to introduce;
c) a Certificate of Lawful Works to Listed Buildings for proposed works;
d) a Certificate of Lawful Works to Listed Buildings for works already undertaken?
If not, please clearly state your reasons and your views on the approach you consider the Government should take.
We do not see the need for a separate certificate for 'Lawful Works'. Either planning consent is required or it is not needed. To permit work on listed buildings
at the discretion of the developer could endanger the integrity of listed buildings, and remove any involvement by the community and amenity societies.
Question 7: If you are involved in the Listed Building Consent system either in a Local Planning Authority or any other capacity, can you provide further information
on the following;
d) possible numbers of LBC applications currently made due to the lack of a formal mechanism for LPAs to confirm whether or not consent is needed;
e) the numbers of informal requests received or made every year concerning the need for LBC;
f) how such queries are handled?
Question 8: Do you agree with the proposal to introduce a system whereby accredited independent agents provide expert reports on LBC applications
directly to the LPA? If not, please clearly state your reasons and your views on the approach you consider the Government should take.
If the LPA does not have a conservation officer, there may be a need to seek advice and guidance from the relevant officer from a neighbouring LPA.
It is essential that professional advice should be impartial, and not provided at the behest and funding of the applicant. The applicant may choose to seek and
provide his own professional advice, but it is inevitably bound to be biased because 'whoever pays the piper plays the tune'.
To take the power of decision away from the LPA would also deny the community and amenity societies from having its say in matters affecting the listed buildings,
which may be an integral part of their environment.
Question 9: If you are commenting from a one of the professional institutes listed, are you able to comment on the likely impact on your institute of establishing,
monitoring and administering such an accreditation system to support this option? If you are able to supply supporting information, please set it out clearly,
or indicate where it can easily be accessed.
Question 10: How should the existing heritage accreditation scheme be modified or replaced to accommodate this proposal? What professional standards and enforcement
would be needed to cope with the potential conflict of interest, and should agents scope be constrained through national government?
This question supports NORA's opinion that the introduction of 'agents' would make the planning regime more complex than it need be,
and it should not be pursued.
Question 11: Should the proposal for advice be extended further, as some stakeholders have suggested, for example allowing accredited agents to certify LBC directly themselves?
Either the LPA considers a planning consent is required or it decides it is not needed. To take away this element of the planning process and give it to an outside agency
demeans the whole system of planning.
Question 12: If you are commenting from an authority which is able to take action under Enforcement and Compulsory Purchase powers, can you give any examples of
where you have done so, or can you comment on the reasons why you have chosen not to?
Question 13: Do you consider that amending the legal powers relating to Urgent Works Notices, Repairs Notices and Compulsory Purchase could be effective in encouraging
authorities to pursue cases of neglect to listed buildings? If so, please clearly state your reasons.
LPAs appear reluctant to take enforcement action on a whole host of planning breaches and not only in respect of neglect of listed buildings.
This is in part due to the complex system that faces enforcement officers, which admittedly has improved with the new legislation governing 'retrospective planning
applications' and enforcement notices. Unfortunately the rectitude of enforcement is balanced by the risk of incurring costs if matters take a legal course, and as a result this influences
the decision whether or not to take enforcement action.
Furthermore the enforcement departments of most LPAs are poorly financed and often inadequately staffed in terms of numbers, with the result that planning breaches are
neither recorded early enough nor acted upon early enough. In some respects enforcement is the Cinderella of the planning system, which is an indictment of the system
when so much effort is put into the management side of planning. Not enough monitoring is undertaken to ensure that planning consents with conditions are properly implemented,
and sadly breaches of planning legislation are often not dealt with promptly and judiciously.
Question 14: Can you propose any further changes or amendments, including non-statutory changes, beyond those suggested here, which would provide additional benefits or
improvements to protect Buildings at Risk?
There are targets for completion of planning applications, and to introduce similar targets for dealing with breaches of planning legislation in terms of listed buildings and
Buildings at Risk might ensure better staffing and funding of Enforcement Departments.
A star system for recognising the achievements of planning departments and enforcement departments might also raise the profile of LPAs.
Alan B Shrank - NORA chairman