A perfect partnership for the new planning

R E V I E W 25 A PERFECT PARTNERSHIP FOR THE NEW PLANNING Local support for conservation services 4&©/ 0 3&*--: and JOHN PRESTON The environment in which the IHBC and its members work is always changing, but now faster than ever. Today, our concept of the historic environment is so all-encompassing that it excludes only the most isolated parts of the globe. Still broader environmental issues have been highlighted through the impact of climate change and the unique resources historic places represent. At the same time the new planning regime in England, centred on the introduction of its National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), is providing a new focus on local authority planning, notably the local plan and the support provided for its development and delivery. This revival of local priorities is a new direction but it must surely also include a revival in awareness of the benefits that the traditional conservation o!cer or service can bring to local places. While the badges of ‘Localism’, ‘Neighbourhood planning’ and the ‘Big Society’ may be new in England’s politics, much of their content is old hat for conservation services. Those initiatives have real potential for our interests, not least because the evidence – including the responses to the Localism Bill and the NPPF drafts – suggests that conserving local places remains a high priority for local communities. Also, voluntary capacity has always been an essential cog in the machine supporting the conservation service, whatever form that might take. Because of the values people attach to places, volunteers invariably generate a remarkable energy in their cause, even if it sometimes needs tighter focus. Moreover, the UK enjoys particularly vigorous volunteering interests that work for the public good. The UK’s amenity bodies, for FYBNQMF SFQSFTFOU TPNF PG UIF NPTU structured and e"ective independent third party contributors. They provide specialist knowledge, often with levels PG FYQFSUJTF BOE MPDBM VOEFSTUBOEJOH that regulators couldn’t otherwise BDIJFWF DPTU FďFDUJWFMZ #FTU PG BMM their work is mostly paid for by the societies’ members rather than the UBYQBZFS 8IFSF UIFSF JT DBQBDJUZ BOE competence to direct that resource into the planning process, as the traditional conservation o!cer might do, the added value is outstanding. It is now up to local people to ensure that there is capacity in the local authority to make use of such contributions. If a body such as the IHBC tries to make the case for conservation capacity, it is sidelined because of its membership interests. Now, however, local people will have the chance to shape the conservation infrastructure and challenge their local authority to provide competent services. Conservation processes must also remain fit for purpose. Not least because of their new prominence, if voluntary contributions to conservation are to succeed, they must work within the management processes in ways that are substantial, clear, justifiable, e"ective and, of course, reasonable. That is what volunteers working with the local plan will have to take on board. If they don’t, the national priorities of the NPPF will become the only HVJEF GPS MPDBM EFDJTJPO UBLFST To have a clear representation of their amenity interests within their local authority planning process, local activists will still need the support of the skills and standards that a conservation o!cer can provide. Without that support, polarisation between amenity and development interests will increase, making it more di!cult for planning to disentangle genuine conservation interests from more personal priorities ranging from A volunteer from The Follies Trust surveying one of Lord Limerick’s follies at Tollymore Park, Newcastle, Co Down (Photo: The Follies Trust)