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New heritage legislation to slash the red tape in making alterations to listed buildings

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, enacted by Parliament on 25 April 2013, has brought about new heritage legislation that will simplify the lengthy, and often tedious, process of making alterations to listed buildings.

The key heritage changes, based upon ideas originally outlined in the 2011 Penfold Review, aim to reduce the unnecessary amount of red tape and bureaucracy usually needed to make changes to protected buildings.
In theory, the Act should improve the function of the heritage consent regimes, without jeopardising, or reducing, the necessary protections that preserve the historic environment. The changes, which only apply to England and will come into effect by means of later commencement order(s), will include:

• The removal of the need for a separate application for Conservation Area Consent, with the granting of planning permission covering the demolition of buildings in conservation areas.

• Local and National Listed Building Consent (LBC) orders will be granted automatically for certain categories of buildings or work, without the need for separate LBC.

• Listed buildings will be entered onto the National Heritage List for England (NHLE), where descriptions will specify objects or structures that should not
be treated as part of the listing, or alternatively specify parts that are not architecturally or historically of interest. This enables work to be carried out that would have previously needed LBC.

• Heritage Partnership Agreements (HPA), voluntary agreements made with local planning authorities, will provide prior LBC for specific agreed works. Demolition, however, will not be covered in HPAs.

• Certificates of Lawfulness of Works, which can last for up to 10 years, will allow owners, managers, and developers, to receive written assurance from local authorities that LBC will not be required for proposed works. This will avoid unnecessary submission of a full LBC application. These certificates can also be linked to HPAs to streamline the management of a listed building.

• Certificates of Immunity (CoI) can now be applied for at any time and without the need for a coexisting planning application.

These alterations to heritage regulations will aid in the proactive management and conservation of listed buildings by speeding up, and simplifying, LBC applications. Since there are no plans to make changes to the LBC regime itself, developers will still have to provide a high level of detailed information for their LBC applications. However, the Act will ensure that greater certainty is provided and risks are reduced in the management of listed buildings. The reforms will also reduce the number of individual LBC applications, which, over time, will bring about resource savings. The HPAs will enable strong collaborative relationships to develop between owners and local planning authorities, and, when used with a Certificate of Lawfulness of Works and a more accurate listed building description, a highly efficient management framework for a building, or even group of buildings, could be created. Overall, the new legislation will make life much easier for those seeking to modify, or manage, listed buildings.

Paul Burbidge can be reached at