The historic environment is one of the primary sources of evidence of our history. There is a great deal of valuable knowledge still to be gained from it. Safeguarding this new knowledge and making it widely accessible is an important exercise of general public benefit.
Recording something and furthering our understanding of history from that record is obviously more important where something is to be lost, but records of our historic environment are also created as part of the process that local planning authorities follow to build the evidence base for their local development plan. If the recording and analysis is published, placed in the Historic Environment Record and properly archived then the exercise will valuably inform future planning and heritage decisions as well as contribute to our understanding of England's history.
The NPPF contains policies that require recording of a heritage asset where it is to be harmed or lost (1). The policies apply whether the asset holds an archaeological, historic, architectural or artistic interest . The requirement to record and advance further understanding is to be proportionate to the nature of the significance to be harmed or lost and the importance of the asset.
The fact that something can be recorded is not to be a factor in consent decisions, says the NPPF (1), as a record is not as good as keeping the asset in its existing condition.
The recording process is managed through conditions on any permission or consent and sometimes a s106 agreement. These will often refer to and control the operation of a written scheme of investigation which will set out the detail of what is required: to record, analyse, publish and archive.
The National Planning Practice Guidance and the Historic England Good Practice Advice Notes contain guidance on the means of achieving the policy requirements and the standards expected under the NPPF.