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Transport and the Historic Environment

This page sets out the principles that Historic England will follow when discussing national transport policy and major transport development. They are aimed at transport developers and national policy makers.

Motorway Aerial View
Aerial view of motorway

Issue

Good transport links are key to our social and economic wellbeing, and help support economic growth.   Our transport infrastructure needs to adapt and develop in the face of new technology and needs.  Government policy is currently to invest in road and rail, and promote sustainable transport such as cycling or walking. 

Transport improvements affect the historic environment, although many do no significant harm.  Historic England supports sustainable change which minimises damage to the historic environment or where possible enhances it.

Impacts on the historic environment can include the intensification of existing traffic or the construction of new road or rail.  Increasing levels of congestion can affect our historic towns, cities and the countryside, while development of new transport infrastructure can affect historic landscapes and may cause direct damage to heritage assets.  

In many cases there is scope for mitigation of impacts once safety requirements and engineering limitations have been factored in.

Our transport infrastructure is also an important historic asset in its own right from prehistoric trackways and Roman roads, to medieval bridges, the development of canals and railways during the industrial revolution and the introduction of motor transport and aviation in the 20th century.

Principles

  • Historic England supports Government’s transport and planning policies to encourage sustainable forms of transport.  We will, where appropriate, support improvements to public places, including streets, stations, bus stops and improved cycling facilities, which make alternatives to the car appealing and accessible.
  • It is important to ensure that transport appraisal properly assesses all potential impacts on the historic environment to an appropriate level of detail.  Historic England will support this through early engagement in this process, and detailed advice and assistance.
  • Historic England considers that, following the approach set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, it will be helpful if appraisals adopt a broad definition of the historic environment, including conservation areas, locally designated sites or buildings, and historic landscapes and townscapes, as well as designated heritage assets.
  • There are still significant gaps in our understanding of the historic environment.  The use of early assessment and, where necessary, field evaluation, can minimise the risk of encountering unexpected remains during construction.  This information can also inform the design of transport schemes and any strategies to mitigate impact on the historic environment.
  • Well-designed traffic management proposals, that recognise and complement local and regional character, can be a positive addition to the historic environment.
  • We welcome innovative transport management solutions.  Small scale measures can be an effective means of addressing transport problems and help reduce the impact on the historic environment.
  • We will work with Government, airport operators and developers to assess the impacts of airport development and identify the scope for mitigation.

How Historic England will engage in local transport policy

Consideration of the historic environment can helpfully be incorporated at all stages of transport planning, including developing local transport plans, implementing individual projects, and the on-going management of the road network.  Factors to take into account include the:

  • Role of the historic environment in influencing a plan’s objectives, for example tackling traffic congestion in historic towns and cities.
  • Potential direct and indirect impact of a plan’s proposals and programmes on historic remains, features, sites, townscapes, and landscapes.
  • Opportunities for new transport measures to promote and enhance access to and enjoyment of the historic environment.

    For further information and advice about assessing and dealing with potential impacts of transport plans, programmes and projects on the historic environment, your first contact should be with your local authority archaeology and conservation officers.

Highways England: Historic England and Highways England have signed a Memorandum of Understanding which sets out the roles of the two organisations and how they will work together.

It reflects the understanding between the parties about the services to be provided by, and the responsibilities of, both in respect of works related to cultural heritage affected by Highways Agency road schemes and studies.

The document will be reviewed after Spring 2015 when Highways England is due to become an arms-length government-owned company.

Assessing the Impact of Road Schemes: The consideration of historic landscape character has great potential for contributing to the better design, construction and operation of the trunk road network.

Practical advice on the application of this approach is intended to be helpful for road designers, environmental practitioners and contractors.  This document is intended to help with the preparation of environmental assessments of the changes that will be made by road schemes to historic landscape character by identifying principles and emerging best practice.

Advice Note: Assessing the Impact of Road Schemes on Historic Landscape Characterisation

Good Practice for Street Design: Historic England’s streetscape manuals, Streets for All, set out principles of good practice for street management - such as reducing clutter, co-ordinating design and reinforcing local character.  The manuals, covering each of the English regions, provide inspiration and advice on street design which reflects the region's distinctive historic character.

Historic England Selection Guides set out information about how different building types are considered for listing or scheduling, and contain information about their history and development.

Transport Buildings looks at buildings relating to the canal, road and railway systems while the Ships and Boats Selection Guides look at how the remains of ships and boats will be considered for national protection.

The Selection Guide for Street Furniture examines the historic street furniture which enriches the street scene.

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