The Government has launched a consultation on reforms of the planning system in England. The “Planning for the Future” consultation has at its heart proposals to radically streamline and modernise the planning process, claiming it will bring a new focus on design and sustainability, improve the system of developer contributions to infrastructure, and ensure more land is available for development in a speedier fashion than has previously been the case. The heritage sector has been anticipating the announcement, and will need to look both quickly and closely at the implications for both protected and unprotected historic buildings and sites, the historic character of places, archaeology within the development control process, and much wider issues around sustainability, design/build quality and use of appropriate materials. It will also need to pitch its views and concerns carefully in a post-covid world where getting the economy moving again and getting Britain building is the Government’s current dual-toned mantra.
In previous planning and development policy changes at a national level, The National Trust has been in a lead role campaigning to ensure that heritage remains a key consideration, alongside other organisations such as the coalition of heritage NGOs represented by The Heritage Alliance’s Spatial Planning Advocacy Group. With current challenges within heritage organisations as a result of the pandemic this may be more difficult, and it will be ever more important for the sector to combine its efforts to get its reasoned voice heard – showing where heritage can clearly contribute for the long term in creating, sustaining and improving places and communities.