PPG 15 (Extracts)
Conservation and economic prosperity
1.5 Conservation can itself play a key part in promoting economic prosperity by ensuring that an area offers attractive living and working conditions which will encourage inward investment - environmental quality is increasingly a key factor in many commercial decisions. The historic environment is of particular importance for tourism and leisure, and Government policy encourages the growth and development of tourism in response to the market so long as this is compatible with proper long-term conservation. Further advice on tourist aspects of conservation is given in PPG 21 and the English Tourist Board's publication Maintaining the Balance.
Stewardship: the role of local authorities and others
1.6 The Government urges local authorities to maintain and strengthen their commitment to stewardship of the historic environment, and to reflect it in their policies and their allocation of resources. It is important that, as planning authorities, they adopt suitable policies in their development plans, and give practical effect to them through their development control decisions. As highway authorities too, their policies and activities should reflect the need to protect the historic environment and to promote sustainable economic growth, for roads can have a particular impact at all levels - not only through strategic decisions on the siting of new roads, but also through the more detailed aspects of road building and road maintenance, such as the quality of street furniture and surfaces. Above all, local authorities should ensure that they can call on sufficient specialist conservation advice, whether individually or jointly, to inform their decision-making and to assist owners and other members of the public.
1.7 However, the responsibility of stewardship is shared by everyone - not only by central and local government, but also by business, voluntary bodies, churches, and by individual citizens as owners, users and visitors of historic buildings. The historic environment cannot be preserved unless there is broad public support and understanding, and it is a key element of Government policy for conservation that there should be adequate processes of consultation and education to facilitate this.
2. Development Plans and Development Control
2.1 The principal Act (as amended) requires development plans to include policies for 'the conservation of the natural beauty and amenity of the land' and for 'the improvement of the physical environment'. The Town & Country Planning (Development Plan) Regulations 1991 require authorities to have regard to environmental considerations in preparing their plan policies and proposals. The protection of the historic environment, whether individual listed buildings, conservation areas, parks and gardens, battlefields or the wider historic landscape, is a key aspect of these wider environmental responsibilities, and will need to be taken fully into account both in the formulation of authorities' planning policies and in development control.
Listed building consent for works already executed
3.42 Section 8(3) of the Act allows listed building consent to be sought even though the works have already been completed. Applications for consent to retain such works should follow the same procedures as other listed building consent applications and should contain sufficient information (see Annex B paragraph B.3). Local planning authorities should not grant consent merely to recognise a fait accompli; they should consider whether they would have granted consent for the works had it been sought before they were carried out, while having regard to any subsequent matters which may be relevant. If the work is not of a suitable type or standard, consent should not normally be given, and the risk of prosecution or enforcement action will remain. If consent is granted, it is not retrospective; the works are authorised only from the date of the consent. A prosecution may still be brought for the initial offence.
3.43 If work is carried out without consent, a local planning authority can issue a listed building enforcement notice (section 38). The notice may (a) require the building to be brought back to its former state; or (b), if that is not reasonably practicable or desirable, require other works specified in the notice to alleviate the effects of the unauthorised works; or (c) require the building to be brought into the state it would have been in if the terms of any listed building consent had been observed. It was held in the case of Bath City Council v Secretary of State for the Environment ( JPL 737) that this provision could not be used to secure an improvement to a listed building compared to its state before the unauthorised works were carried out. There is a right of appeal to the Secretary of State against a notice; the appeal procedures are generally similar to those for enforcement of development control following the Planning and Compensation Act 1991, although there are no provisions equivalent to a planning contravention notice, nor is there any limitation on the period within which a listed building enforcement notice must be issued. If works subject to a listed building enforcement notice are later authorised under section 8(3), the enforcement notice will cease to have effect in relation to those works, although the liability to prosecution for an offence committed before the date of consent remains. Breach of a listed building enforcement notice is itself an offence, with financial penalties parallel to those for a breach of listed building control.
3.44 It is a criminal offence to execute, or cause to be executed, without first obtaining listed building consent any works for the demolition, in whole or part, of a listed building or any works of alteration or extension which would affect its special interest, or to fail to comply with the terms of any condition attached to a consent (section 9). This includes the theft of architectural fixtures. The current penalty for conviction in a magistrates' court is a fine of up to £20,000 or imprisonment for up to six months (or both), whilst on conviction in the Crown Court an unlimited fine or a prison sentence of up to two years (or both) may be imposed. In determining the amount of any fine, a magistrates' court or the Crown Court must have regard to any financial benefit which has accrued or may accrue from the offence.
3.45 In proceedings for an offence under section 9 it is a defence to prove all of the following matters:
(a) that works to the building were urgently necessary in the interests of safety or health or for the preservation of the building;
(b) that it was not practicable to secure safety or health or, as the case may be, to preserve the building by works of repair or works for affording temporary support or shelter;
(c) that the works carried out were limited to the minimum measures immediately necessary; and
(d) that notice in writing justifying in detail the carrying out of the works was given to the local planning authority as soon as reasonably practicable.
3.46 Anyone - individuals as well as English Heritage and local planning authorities - can start proceedings. English Heritage and planning authorities can also seek injunctions for breaches of listed building control. A prosecution may also be initiated under section 59 where deliberate damage is caused to a listed building by an owner or his agent, for which financial penalties are provided.
3.47 Local planning authorities will obviously need to consider, when faced with a breach of listed building control, whether to take enforcement action or to prosecute or both. Enforcement may be intrinsically desirable for the benefit of the building in question, while the work entailed by enforcement may also represent a sufficient response to the offence. However, unauthorised work may often destroy historic fabric the special interest of which cannot be restored by enforcement. Moreover, well-publicised successful prosecutions can provide a valuable deterrent to wilful damage to, or destruction of, listed buildings, and it is the Secretary of State's policy to encourage proceedings where it is considered that a good case can be sustained.
3.48 Prosecution and enforcement relate to breaches of listed building control that have already occurred. Where such a breach is continuing or there is good reason to suppose it is about to occur, authorities should consider seeking an injunction to stop or prevent it. Since a breach of listed building control (unlike development control) is itself a criminal offence, there is no need or statutory provision for stop notices. Authorities may, of course, find written warnings useful deterrents. Injunctions can be obtained speedily from the Court even where the actual or expected offender is not present before the Court, or indeed where his or her identity is not known; the essential ingredient is to satisfy the Court that the application is soundly based. In the case of an interim injunction the Court would normally ask the applicant to compensate the restrained party for any costs the latter might incur as a result of the interim injunction if the Court refuse to grant a final injunction. Anyone who refuses to comply with an injunction is in contempt of Court and may be fined or imprisoned (or both).
4. Conservation Areas
4.2 It is the quality and interest of areas, rather than that of individual buildings, which should be the prime consideration in identifying conservation areas. There has been increasing recognition in recent years that our experience of a historic area depends on much more than the quality of individual buildings - on the historic layout of property boundaries and thoroughfares; on a particular 'mix' of uses; on characteristic materials; on appropriate scaling and detailing of contemporary buildings; on the quality of advertisements, shop fronts, street furniture and hard and soft surfaces; on vistas along streets and between buildings; and on the extent to which traffic intrudes and limits pedestrian use of spaces between buildings. Conservation area designation should be seen as the means of recognising the importance of all these factors and of ensuring that conservation policy addresses the quality of townscape in its broadest sense as well as the protection of individual buildings.
4.3 Local planning authorities also have under section 69 a duty to review their areas from time to time to consider whether further designation of conservation areas is called for. In some districts, areas suitable for designation may have been fully identified already; and in considering further designations authorities should bear in mind that it is important that conservation areas are seen to justify their status and that the concept is not devalued by the designation of areas lacking any special interest. Authorities should seek to establish consistent local standards for their designations and should periodically review existing conservation areas and their boundaries against those standards: cancellation of designation should be considered where an area or part of an area is no longer considered to possess the special interest which led to its original designation.
Use of planning powers in conservation areas
4.14 Section 72 of the Act requires that special attention shall be paid in the exercise of planning functions to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of a conservation area. This requirement extends to all powers under the Planning Acts, not only those which relate directly to historic buildings. The desirability of preserving or enhancing the area should also, in the Secretary of State's view, be a material consideration in the planning authority's handling of development proposals which are outside the conservation area but would affect its setting, or views into or out of the area. Local planning authorities are required by section 73 to publish a notice of planning applications for development which would in their opinion affect the character or appearance of a conservation area.
4.15 The status now accorded to the development plan by section 54A of the principal Act makes it particularly important that an authority's policies for its conservation areas, insofar as they bear on the exercise of development controls, should be set out in the local plan. There should also be a clear indication of the relationship between the plan itself and detailed assessment documents or statements of proposals for particular conservation areas, making clear that development proposals will be judged for their effect on the character and appearance of the area as identified in the assessment document.
4.18 Local planning authorities will often need to ask for detailed plans and drawings of proposed new development, including elevations which show the new development in its setting, before considering a planning application. In addition to adopted local plan policies, it may be helpful to prepare design briefs for individually important 'opportunity' sites. Special regard should be had for such matters as scale, height, form, massing, respect for the traditional pattern of frontages, vertical or horizontal emphasis, and detailed design (eg. the scale and spacing of window openings, and the nature and quality of materials). General planning standards should be applied sensitively in the interests of harmonising the new development with its neighbours in the conservation area.
4.19 The Courts have recently confirmed that planning decisions in respect of development proposed to be carried out in a conservation area must give a high priority to the objective of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of the area. If any proposed development would conflict with that objective, there will be a strong presumption against the grant of planning permission, though in exceptional cases the presumption may be overridden in favour of development which is desirable on the ground of some other public interest.
4.20 As to the precise interpretation of 'preserve or enhance', the Courts have held (South Lakeland DC v Secretary of State for the Environment,  2 WLR 204) that there is no requirement in the legislation that conservation areas should be protected from all development which does not enhance or positively preserve. Whilst the character and appearance of conservation areas should always be given full weight in planning decisions, the objective of preservation can be achieved either by development which makes a positive contribution to an area's character or appearance, or by development which leaves character and appearance unharmed.
4.31 All outdoor advertisements affect the appearance of the building or the neighbourhood where they are displayed. The main purpose of the advertisement control system is to help everyone involved in the display of outdoor advertising to contribute positively to the appearance of an attractive and cared-for environment. So it is reasonable to expect that the local planning authority's duty to pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of a conservation area will result in practice in applying more exacting standards when the authority consider whether to grant consent for a proposed advertisement in such an area.
4.32 In conservation areas it is important for local planning authorities to be sensitive in the use of their powers under the Town & Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1992, because many areas include retail and commercial premises, ranging from small corner-shops to thriving commercial centres. Outdoor advertising is essential to commercial activity in a free and diverse economy, and the success of local businesses will usually help owners and tenants of commercial premises to maintain buildings in good repair and attractive appearance.
4.33 Local planning authorities may wish to adopt advertisement control policies as part of their duty to formulate and publish proposals for the preservation and enhancement of conservation areas. Such policies can inform prospective advertisers about the type of displays likely to prove acceptable in an area; and they should provide a rational and consistent basis for decision-making on all advertisement control matters, including the serving of discontinuance notices.
4.34 Because of the special interest of most conservation areas, certain categories of 'deemed consent' advertisements which may have a significant visual impact are not permitted for display in a conservation area without the local planning authority's specific consent. But a general prohibition of the display of certain classes of advertisement, or the withdrawal or limitation of those which may be displayed with deemed consent, is not usually justified solely because of designation.
4.35 Attention is drawn to the value of education and co-operation to help prevent unsympathetic advertisements. Local planning authorities may wish to consider mounting programmes, in association with local businesses, to promote advertisement policies by providing advice about the design and siting of suitable displays which respect the character and appearance of an area (either by the publication of design guidelines, the mounting of exhibitions, the setting-up of an advisory service in a Planning Department, or a combination of these approaches).
4.36 Where a local planning authority has pursued this approach, but considers that it has not prevented unsuitable or harmful advertisement displays, the Secretary of State will be prepared to consider making a direction under regulation 7 of the 1992 Regulations referred to above, if the authority can justify it. In seeking such additional control, authorities will be expected to show that they have well-formulated policies for the display of advertisements in the area and that the vigorous use of normal powers of control has proved inadequate. Similarly, when considering whether an advertisement is causing 'substantial injury to amenity', so that its display should be discontinued, the Secretary of State will particularly consider any evidence, on appeal, that the authority have acted in accordance with a well-formulated advertisement control policy.
4.37 Further advice on outdoor advertisement control, including in conservation areas, is given in PPG 19