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Planning and heritage: an unclear picture

  • by JW

“Plundering of the past for the purposes of private enrichment.”

“The Planning White Paper mentions heritage in passing, but with little focus.”


A fortnight ago, an iconic piece of British heritage was allowed to become a hotel:

Secretary of State grants planning permission and listed building consent for regeneration of Whitechapel Bell Foundry – Lexology

Campaigners lose fight to save 450-year-old Whitechapel Bell Foundry in East London | Daily Mail Online

Following which, an inquiry was initiated into the whole process:

Jenrick announces PINS and planning policy heritage review in wake of Whitechapel Bell Foundry consent | Planning Resource

As covered on these pages:

A review of heritage planning policy – Vision Group for Sidmouth

A lot of people were very angry at the failure of Historic England to do more:

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry will be turned into a hotel. Four and a half centuries of bell-making in Whitechapel have gone to pot and another bit of British history will be turned into an ersatz coffee bar – what Historic England, in its wisdom, and with its responsibility for the preservation of the historic fabric of England, calls ‘adaptive re-use’ – a totally weaselly term, which allows its commissioners to celebrate the plundering of the past for the purposes of private enrichment.

The shameful failure to protect the Whitechapel Bell Foundry | Apollo Magazine

If Robert Jenrick doesn’t act now, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry will be lost for good |


Since the decision, it just so happens that Historic England has published advice on how owners of listed buildings can apply for consent to work on their property:

Listed Building Consent | Historic England


There wasn’t a breach of any rules around the Grade II Listed Whitechapel Foundry – it’s just that a junior minister waved the application though:

Junior minister approves east London bell foundry revamp following Pincher refusal error | Planning Resource

The bells v the boutique hotel: the battle to save Britain’s oldest factory | London | The Guardian


However, a private member’s bill is making its way through parliament to try and reduce breaches of planning regulations:

Planning (Enforcement) Bill – Parliamentary Bills – UK Parliament


Despite this specific attempt on the legislative margins to provide more assurances to the planning system, and despite the Secretary of State initiating a review into the specifics of planning and heritage, there are fears around the government’s proposals to fundamentally reshape planning:

Heritage planning under the spotlight again – but will there be any change? – Lexology


This is from a report from the House of Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, published just over a month ago:

The future of the planning system in England

Further protections—heritage…

Urban Vision Enterprise declared that “The Planning White Paper mentions heritage in passing, but with little focus.” It was similarly noted there had been no question on heritage protection in the consultation.

Claire Dutch told us: “The White Paper does not deal with heritage in any great respect … We have an adequate framework for protection of historic assets in this country. It works, it does the job and we do not need to tinker with it.”

These comments echoed a widely felt wish for clarity about the impact on historical and environmental protections in ‘growth’, ‘renewal’, and ‘protected’ areas, for example for listed buildings, existing conservation areas, and green spaces.

The Bartlett School of Planning at UCL argued that: “It is hard to see how well a listed building could be protected in relation to development proposals for immediately adjoining buildings in a ‘growth’ or ‘renewal’ area under the government’s proposals.”

Hackney Council, among others, also emphasised the importance of continuing to let local authorities play a crucial role in listing buildings or designating Conservation Areas…

The future of the planning system in England


And it’s not just MPs who are concerned – as with threats to Liverpool’s historic docks:

The decision to remove Liverpool’s status is set to be made following “repeated requests” from UNESCO to the local and national government to protect the site.

“The committee has considered several times the possibility of deletion of the property from the World Heritage List owing to the clear deterioration and irreversible loss of attributes conveying the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property including its authenticity and integrity, arising from the ‘Liverpool Waters’ development.”

Liverpool should be stripped of World Heritage status says UNESCO

Liverpool inches closer to having World Heritage Site status yanked by UNESCO