18 JANUARY 2018
On 22 December, Historic England published the much-awaited ‘Second Edition’ of The Setting of Heritage Assets (or ‘GPA 3’). This incorporates guidance on views within the historic environment, replacing the earlier, ill-fitting Seeing the History in the View from 2011. Following the lengthy consultation process, it was hoped that the guidance would provide some much-needed clarification on aspects of the First Edition that were commonly in dispute and have been pored over in the Courts (i.e. Steer v SSCLG [CO/5004/2016]). However, in EDP’s view the updated guidance has introduced more ambiguity and not reduced it.
Some elements of the new guidance are welcome, for example clarification on the distinction between landscape assessments and setting assessments, which should now clear up the notion that pure inter-visibility (or the ability to see something) does not automatically equate to harm to that thing. In particular, recognising that developments which affect wider views of church spires/towers are more likely to be considered in terms of any landscape assessment rather than necessarily affecting heritage values.
However, less welcome is the ambiguity arising from the introduction of what are termed ‘intangible associations’ as a factor which may contribute to the significance of a heritage asset. This is perhaps an example of a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to some notable cases over the last two years (i.e. Kedleston Road/Memorial Road, Allestree), and it is EDPs view that this has the potential to create more debate in the coming months regarding the interpretation of ‘intangible’ and whether, how and to what extent such associations can be affected by development.
Moreover, the concept that the potential presence of ‘historically related land at some distance from an asset (regardless of experience)’ can contribute to an asset’s significance clearly contradicts the definition of setting as the ‘surroundings in which an asset is experienced or can be experienced from that asset’. This guidance is especially pertinent in light of the recent Court of Appeal judgement in respect of Williams v Powys County Council [C1/2016/1419], handed down by Lord Justice Lindblom and Lord Justice Irwin on 9 June 2017, which states that ‘in order for the setting [of a heritage asset] to be affected, there must be a distinct visual relationship’.
Clearly the new guidance has not delivered on the much-needed clarity in those key areas which are likely to set the tone for assessments and appeals in the coming year. Accordingly, EDP’s heritage team will be keeping a very close eye on how this will be treated in forthcoming cases.
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