How Sites And Buildings Are Protected
World Heritage Sites
The UK has 28 World Heritage Sites (WHS), ranging from Liverpool to Stonehenge, from Blaenavon Industrial Landscape to the Tower of London.
By signing up to the World Heritage Convention state parties, including the UK, admit of an obligation to identify, protect and conserve World Heritage Sites.
The protection of World Heritage Sites is the responsibility of the national government, in partnership with local authorities and other interested parties. All WHS require a World Heritage Site Management plan, which outlines how their value will be protected. National governments submit a review of the condition of their sites to UNESCO every six years.
World Heritage Sites are material considerations within the UK planning system. As such, development in their vicinity is more tightly controlled. Many WHS will also be nationally designated.
If a WHS is damaged, or is under threat of being damaged, it can be added to the List of World Heritage in Danger. This aims to mobilise conservation action and may be accompanied by assistance from the World Heritage Fund. If a site continues to deteriorate it can be taken off the World Heritage List. This has only happened twice.
More information is available on the HELM website.
International heritage bodies have produced a number of conventions relating to archaeology and the historic environment. These give guidance and outline best practice for protecting historic sites and buildings.
Conventions applicable in the UK include:
- European Cultural Convention, Council of Europe, 1954
- International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites, ICOMOS, 1964
- Convention on the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, UNESCO, 1972
- Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe, Council of Europe, 1985
- European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage, Council of Europe, 1992
- Environment Impact Assessment, Council Directive 97/11/EC, European Council, 1997
- Convention on the Protection of Underwater Heritage, UNESCO, 2001
- Council Directive 2003/35/EC (On public participation in planning), European Council, 2003
- European Landscape Convention, Council of Europe, 2006
A scheduled monument can be any site or structure, above or below ground, that is not occupied. Sites are added to the Schedule of Ancient Monuments if they can be shown to be of national importance.
Scheduled monuments have legal protection. Anyone proposing works to a site must first apply for scheduled monument consent. It is a criminal act to damage a scheduled monument, or to use a metal detector on site without a licence from the relevant national heritage body.
Monuments are scheduled by the relevant national Secretary of State, in consultation with the national heritage body (English Heritage, Cadw, Historic Scotland or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency).
Principal legislation dealing with scheduled monuments:
- England and Wales: The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.
- Scotland: Historic Environment (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2011
- Northern Ireland: Historic Monument and Archaeological Objects (Northern Ireland) Order 1995
A building is listed if it is of special architectural or historic interest. The listing system is managed by the national heritage bodies on behalf of the relevant national Secretary of State.
When considering a building for listing, the national heritage bodies use a number of criteria for its architectural, archaeological, artistic or historic interest. These relate to the building’s design, associations, group value, capacity to illustrate aspects of national history, archaeological potential and representativeness or rarity. In England and Wales Buildings are graded at either I, II* or II; with Grade I being of exceptional interest, Grade II* of more than special interest and Grade II nationally important and of special interest. In Scotland the equivalent Grades A, B, C(S) are used and in Northern Ireland buildings are graded as A, B*, B1 and B2.
Listed buildings are given special protection within the planning system. All development proposals affecting the interior or exterior of a listed building and buildings within its curtilage must obtain listed building consent. Consent is determined by the local planning authority, in consultation with the national amenity societies in England and Wales. In some cases the national heritage body will also be consulted.
Underwater sites can be designated as Protected Wrecks under the 1973 Protection of Wrecks Act. Such sites are identified by a ‘Statutory instrument’, which also outlines an area surrounding the site where activity is to be restricted.
It is a criminal offence to tamper with, damage or remove any part of, or any objects associated with, a Protected Wreck without a licence granted by the appropriate national Secretary of State. It is also illegal to carry out diving or salvage operations or deposit anything (including anchors and fishing gear) which could damage the site.
Administration of the 1973 Protection of Wrecks Act and its associated licensing scheme is the responsibility of English Heritage in England, Cadw in Wales, Historic Scotland in Scotland and the Heritage Service in Northern Ireland. These national heritage bodies designate Wreck sites on behalf of the relevant government department
English Heritage has a dedicated Historic Wrecks Panel.
Local authorities have the power to designate Conservation Areas (CAs). These are areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve. Planning authorities have a duty to ‘preserve and enhance’ the CAs in their locality.
It is the responsibility of local authorities to designate Conservation Areas, based on local and regional criteria.
The local planning authority is required to consult widely, including with residents and local amenity societies, on any proposals affecting buildings within a Conservation Area. Any proposals that involve substantial demolition of a building or structure within the CA require consent.
Buildings or Sites on the Historic Environment Record or Local List
Many local planning authorities keep Historic Environment Records (HERs) and local lists of the heritage assets in their area. These include details of archaeological sites and historic buildings acknowledged as locally significant.
Inclusion of heritage assets on a HER or local list does not in itself give them legal protection. However, it does identify the site or building as of known heritage interest. National planning policy in England requires that assets included on the HER or local list are considered in any decisions made regarding development proposals. This requirement is laid out in Planning Policy Statement 5.
Places of Worship
Places of worship can be listed in the same way as secular buildings, and are then subject to the same controls for development through the planning system
However, Ecclesiastical Exemption applies to places of worship still in active use. This scheme exempts places of worship from local authority and listed building controls in cases where the religious denomination responsible for the building is considered to have protection systems equivalent to secular legal protection.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has produced guidance on the operation of Ecclesiastical Exemption in England.
Cadw produced a review of the system of Ecclesiastical Exemption in Wales in 2005.
Denominations with Ecclesiastical Exemption in England and Wales are:
- The Church of England
- The Church in Wales
- The Roman Catholic Church
- The Methodist Church
- The United Reformed Church
- The Baptist Union of Great Britain
In Scotland the exemption is limited to the interior of churches only and applies to:
- Associated Presbyterian Churches
- Baptist Union of Scotland
- Church of Scotland
- Free Church of Scotland
- Free Presbyterian Church
- Methodist Church in Scotland
- Roman Catholic Church in Scotland
- Scottish Episcopal Church
- United Free Church of Scotland
- United Reformed Church Scotland Synod
Historic Scotland outlined this system of exemption in a set of Guidance Notes in 2006.
Further information about the protection of places of worship can be found here on the CBA website.
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