Writing a heritage statement
A heritage statement is a document that is required under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), and it provides an ‘assessment of the significance of heritage assets and/or their settings affected by a development, and of the impacts of that development upon them’.
This means that any works that could affect the importance, the fabric, or the setting of a heritage asset (listed building, locally listed building, building within a conservation area) needs to be considered to ensure that the why the asset is special is not lost or harmed.
The statement should reflect the complexity of the application, so there is no requirement for in depth research for minor works such as replacing a defective window, just as a simple paragraph would not be suitable for major internal works to a listed building. As described in the NPPF, ‘the level of detail should be proportionate to the assets’ importance and no more than is sufficient to understand the potential impact of the proposal on their significance’.
Significance is the guiding principle of heritage-related planning policy, whether the asset is designated (listed building or within a conservation area) or not (locally listed or a non-designated heritage asset).
The NPPF defines significance as ‘the value of a heritage asset to this and future generations because of its heritage interest. The interest may be archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic’. It may derive ‘not only from a heritage asset’s physical presence, but also from its setting’.
Conservation is the process of maintaining and managing change to heritage assets in a way that sustains and, where appropriate, enhances their significance.
When a statement is required
A statement is required for all applications affecting listed buildings; unlisted buildings in conservation areas or locally listed/ non-designated heritage assets buildings, including applications affecting the setting for any of the above.
A statement can form part of a design and access statement, which are required for most types of applications in conservation areas. Where a design and access statement is needed details will be requested within the application process.
Information that needs to be included
The scope and complexity of a statement will vary, depending on the extent of the proposals and the importance of the building. Larger development proposals that include demolition and new build in a conservation area will require a more in-depth approach than, for example, the replacement of a boundary wall or a front door.
How to research
The depth of the research should respond to the extent of the works, however, a basic understanding of the building and its significance is required.
The first point of call should be Historic England’s ‘Search the list’ website which will provide a map of listed buildings. There may be some discrepancy with identification with the indicator, the blue triangle, in the wrong location. Some buildings, such as terraces could be group listed, so it is worth double checking and undertaking a brief search of the area if your building isn’t shown.
It is also worth noting that with many of the listing descriptions, the description is there to recognise the building, and not to recognise the significance or importance of the building. The more recent listed buildings have a more comprehensive description which includes the significance of the building.
Further information can be found in the following:
- conservation areas (maps and appraisals)
- Historic England selection guides for listed buildings, archaeological sites and historic parks and gardens
- the Pevsner Architectural Guides to the buildings of the counties of England – these are available at most libraries
- Victoria County history
- Heritage Gateway allows for a map search for any historical environment records
- historic ordinance survey maps
- local history books and archives
It is preferable to understand the building or asset prior to deciding on the proposed works as this will allow you to make an informed decision and help protect what is significant about the property.
Once the works are confirmed, a formal impact assessment needs to be undertaken. This can be a simple statement, or each element of work can be broken down item by item in a table format. The assessment should consider the importance or significance, and how the works could affect them.
An example would be proposed works to windows, such as replacement sash cords, replacement of bottom rail to sash windows and minor repairs to the frames. The impact would result in a minor loss of fabric but would allow for the retention of the existing windows and glass and ensure that the windows can continue to be used for the future. The impact would be minable. The proposed replacement of the same windows with new windows would result in a loss of fabric and could change the appearance of the property, and therefore there is a harm to the significance.
As part of the statement, it is beneficial to include some photographs, including the front elevation and where there is proposed works.
To submit an application, you need to do this on the Planning Portal.
The additional following information is required:
- site and block plan – these are available to purchase using the Planning Portal
- existing and proposed floor plans/ elevations – to scale. These do not need to be technical and need only to cover the proposed area of works and some indication of where the works are within the building/site
- any details that could assist in understanding of the works, such as survey report or details of the proposed joinery, etc.
Heritage statement template
This template is aimed at small, household applications.