Fixing Our Broken Housing Market
05 May 2017
The Society of Antiquaries is pleased to have the opportunity to comment on the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Housing White Paper, Fixing Our Broken Housing Market.
The Society of Antiquaries is supportive of initiatives to improve the housing sector in Britain, and the Government’s desire to ‘build many more houses, of the type people want to live in, in the places they want to live’. Research by Historic England has shown that people value historic environments as places to live, and that it gives them a sense of place, a sense of pride and a sense of belonging. We particularly welcome the aim to deliver quicker and more effective processing and determination of planning applications, by ‘boosting local authority capacity and capability'. A robust planning system is vital for ensuring sustainable development, which must include the protection of the historic environment, and the desire to take steps ‘to secure the financial sustainability of planning departments’ and ‘ensure that the planning system has the skilled professionals it needs’ is to be applauded. We have noted with dismay, however, the reduction in the numbers of archaeologists and other heritage professionals in Local Authority planning teams in recent years, on which we made comments in our response to the Future of Local Government Archaeology Services Report. Although we are pleased to see that the Government will 'continue to support the existing principle that developers are required to mitigate the impacts of development in their area,’ (2.28), we have grave concerns that measures introduced in this White Paper will undermine the spirit of these principles as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF 2012). The current proposals to make seemingly small changes to the wording of the Framework will have the potential to cause significant harm to historic environment resources, some of which lie buried and as yet undetected, by changing the balance of evidence in favour of development over protection. NPPF will become unworkable if it is subjected to small-scale amendments which collectively have the effect of watering down the Government’s commitment to the protection of the historic and natural environment.
Our disquiet is reinforced by the frequent references in the White Paper to ‘onerous planning conditions’ and ‘unnecessary delays’ without an indication of the character of these alleged obstacles. Without a clearer statement from the Government about its support for heritage as part of its plans for sustainable development, these obstacles will be viewed by some as including the legitimate and justifiable need for the protection of the historic environment or for its investigation in advance of development.
The Society's statement of values, which were agreed by Council earlier this year, guide the Society's Policy Committee in all areas.