By including their heritage in a community plan, communities can really get to know the place in which they live. They can ensure it keeps its vitality and sense of identity and can choose the best ways for it to develop and grow. Community plans do not have the same weight as neighbourhood plans. They are not part of the Development Plan, which is an important distinction in the planning process. Nonetheless they can still provide a framework for communities to express what they value about their local area and how they would like that area to develop.
We recommend following the same approach to evidence gathering as if you were preparing a neighbourhood plan. The more robust the evidence, the stronger your plan will be. That said, the amount of detail you will include will depend on your resources and the type of plan you want to produce. Parish Plans tend to have a wide scope and focus on services so they usually include less detail on heritage than a Village Design Statement. More information and greater detail may be required if your community’s ambition is to have a design statement adopted as formal planning guidance, exemplified by supplementary planning documents (SPDs).
The most obvious heritage features are historic buildings and structures; however, buried archaeology, townscapes and landscapes, gardens, ancient woodlands, green spaces and landscape features can be just as important, as can local place names, customs, traditions, memories and oral histories. Some heritage features and historic places are protected by law (through designation) and these need to be identified in your Plan. But they are only a small part of the community’s heritage. We recommend that you explore the full breadth of your historic environment and offer tips on how this could be done in a downloadable Community-Led Plan Checklist.
Recognising opportunities and making recommendations
Preparing a Parish Plan or Village Design Statement provides a way of identifying opportunities to enhance the value of local heritage to the community. Indeed, the key section in your community-led plan is an action plan that sets out recommendations for actions to be taken, identifies who will take them and gives dates for completion. Possible opportunities to make the most of your heritage include, amongst others:
- Establishing the condition of key historic buildings and sites. If your local planning authority maintains a Local List of designated assets, this could be used to inform that Local List and thereby support local management.
- Determining if there is community and local authority support for local listing and what aspects of local heritage might be designated.
- If the original use of a historic building is no longer viable, consider other uses or adapting them to wholly new purposes, while trying to maintain their character and evidence of past use. Historic England provides guidance on new uses for former places of worship and on adaptive reuse of traditional farm buildings.
- Taking steps that help to maintain a Conservation Area, demonstrating to the local authority that the features which led to this designation are valued. This can help to reverse any deterioration within the Conservation Area.
- Taking Ownership of assets that were formerly owned by local authorities. Historic England provides guidance on the transfer of local authority heritage assets.
- Improving care for your places of worship.
- A street audit can identify problems and issues and contribute to your community plan. More detailed guidance is available in Streets for All.
- Funding for community heritage projects is inevitably limited, but a community-led plan provides a good basis for making a grant application and can improve the likelihood of success.
Also of interest...
From listing historic treasures to funding rescue projects and training local heritage experts, find out what Historic England is up to in your area.