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Underpinning Local Planning Processes NHPP Activity 5B2

Research carried out 2011-2015 to support local groups, communities and authorities involved in the heritage aspects of local planning. Research focused on forming good practice, tools and building partnerships. It will help these groups and organisations to better understand the historic environment and how to protect it, by influencing development in their area; reinforcing the character and identity of the place.

People assessing their local area as part of a Placecheck
Local people need to decide what they like and what they don't like about their local area

Scope of the activity

This Activity underpinned English Heritage’s statutory role in the planning process (this role is inherited by Historic England) and supported local groups and councillors in protecting heritage. It did this in the light of changes to planning law, including the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the Localism Act and the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act and the Growth and Infrastructure Act.

The planning system had changed, with Government Policy condensing planning policy in the NPPF and powers being given to local communities to plan their neighbourhoods through the Localism Act. The NPPF has at its heart the promotion of sustainable development, which has helped put the historic environment at the heart of planning.

Understanding the significance of heritage in an area is key both in plan-making and decision-taking. It is therefore important that all those working on the planning of places know how to source information on the historic environment in that place and how to interpret and use this information as they work on plans or development proposals.

Resources already existed to provide help and guidance. However more needed to be done to promote them to lay audiences and to ensure that those in planning who advise on neighbourhood plans and other community plans know about them and then use them. This activity focused on researching and piloting tools and methods to acheive these goals.

Placecheck gets people to think about local issues: prompt cards stimulate discussion
Placecheck gets people to think about local issues: prompt cards stimulate discussion

Intended protection results

The intended results were:

  • Effective support for neighbourhood planning.
  • The local designation process incorporated into community planning.
  • Partnership networks established with parish councils and neighbourhood forums.
  • Greater public benefit from links between neighbourhood planning and local museums and record offices.
  • Groups working on neighbourhood plans understand what proposed development may look like.

A Placecheck in progress
A Placecheck in progress

Projects in this activity

Community plan-Making: "Placecheck"

The project to update and re-launch the Placecheck tool was completed by April 2012, when Neighbourhood Planning officially came in. This tool introduces new community groups to looking at the place or neighbourhood where they live and how it can be improved, using an easy exercise that they can carry out themselves. We funded the original developers Urban Design Skills to update an existing tool in the form of the Placecheck website to reflect Neighbourhood Planning regulations, retest the Placecheck format, and put case studies on the website.

Community designation

This project with Urban Design Skills and Civic Voice promoted Placecheck amongst community groups and civic societies as a first stage in understanding their areas. This exercise was in the form of several pilots carried out by civic societies.

Townscape assessment and planning

The Lincoln Townscape Assessment Implementation Project completed its work with the publication in 2012 of:

  • Plans in Place: Taking a local approach to character in Lincoln which demonstrated how a detailed knowledge of the inherited character can enhance the ways in which the character of a place and what contributes to it are valued in the future.
  • Historic Townscape Characterisation – The Lincoln Assessment: A case study which outlines the methodological approach used to document the inherited character of places that make up Lincoln.
  • These documents can be found on the Connect Lincoln website.

"Our Place" project

Building on previous work in the “Know Your Place” initiative, with English Heritage support, Bristol City Historic Environment Record developed “Our Place”. This introduces local groups involved in neighbourhood planning to the role of Local Designation (lists of heritage considered special lat a local level).

Protect your place

This work developed links with local councillors, neighbourhood networks and Heritage Champions to promote local heritage management in neighbourhood planning and protecting local heritage generally. English Heritage supported. Civic Voice to carry out the project, which tapped into the extensive networks of the Heritage Alliance and the Council for British Archaeology as well as Civic Voice’s own contacts. See the Protect Our Place website that the project has set up to help these community networks.

Expanding the neighbourhood plan evidence base – use of museums, archives and historic environment records

This project looked at how to connect groups working in neighbourhood planning to local Historic Environment Records, Record Offices and Museums, to get a better picture of the historic environment in their area. This will help to make sure that development proposals take account of the local historic environment and will enhance rather than harm it wherever possible. You can find out more from the project report.

Updating the "Building in Context" website

English Heritage supported updating the Building in Context website in partnership with Design South East and Design Council CABE. This helps lay users to understand the idea of the context of the area around a site being considered for development, and to see what the proposed development might look like. Our goal was that the site would be made appropriate for neighbourhood planners to use.

Links to other NHPP activities

  • Research on local authority capacity loss under NHPP Activity 2E2
  • Developing tools for local communities to assess the significance of their townscapes under NHPP Activity 4A1
  • Work on local designation in NHPP Activity 5A4.
  • Actions about English Heritage’s planning role contained in Measure 6 of the Plan.


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Related publications

  • Protect Our Place

    Published 25 March 2013

    Promotion of local areas by community groups

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