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IHBC  South-East Branch Conference

Conservation and Local Development Frameworks
– The way forward ?

Eastbourne 17th September 2004

Report by Paul Barker, Branch Chairman

The Assembly Room within Eastbourne’s Town Hall has a certain ‘mediaeval’ splendour, albeit of the over-egged, gloomy, Victorian variety.  An almost perfect setting for a series of expositions on the Byzantine convolutions of Local Development Frameworks (LDFs) and the implications for Conservation.

Fortunately, the (eventual) discovery of the light switches’ location enabled the organisers to dispel the initial gloom and encouraged positive anticipation of the enlightenment which was to follow.

The day was chaired by Nigel Barker, who in his usual animated style introduced the usual nuances, proceedings of the day and speakers.  After the rattling of cups and shuffling of chairs, the speakers came forth.   

Ralph Dickens of GOSE was the first to take the stand and was able to spell out the requirements that would arise following the introduction of LDFs with the aim of ensuring the right development in the right place at the right time. The interrelationship between the various documents – both required and optional – was spelt out and the relative increased ‘weight’ of the latter category’s Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) when compared to that of Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPGs) was emphasised. The bottom line was that detailed Conservation Policies should be incorporated in the Development Plan Documents (DPDs) whilst Conservation Areas might be best dealt with in Area Action Plans (AAPs), both ‘optional’.

The overall feeling arising from this initial outline of the LDF process was probably one of some confusion, particularly insofar as the most appropriate treatment of Conservation-related issues was concerned.

Steve Williams of English Heritage then applied his current experience in dealing with Local Plan consultations to give something of a reality check to the likely implications of the LDF process for those at the coal face He expressed his concern that, whilst there was likely to be an increasing pressure for development in the settings of historic buildings leading to a dramatic rise in consultations for EH, these would probably have to be dealt with without significant increase in resources. A particular danger was that the potential increase in ‘standardisation’ would adversely impact on ‘local character’. 

On the legal front, Catherine Davey, Lawyer at Stevens and Bolton emphasised the need for Officers to ensure that current ‘environmental’ Policies are saved to maintain their usefulness in the interim period prior to LDFs coming
on line.

Waverley Borough Council’s Geraldine Molony followed on with a presentation on the role of Statements of Community Involvement (SCIs), using her work on Farnham Conservation Area as a case study. The mention of having had to consult with over 400 organisations  in this particular instance certainly gave pause for thought, but the advice to ensure that an auditable record of all actions (including publicisation of meetings) was kept is of universal relevance.

After a break for discussion with lunch, the delegates were treated to a beautifully-crafted ‘Blue Peter’ discourse when Jeff Collard of Eastbourne Borough Council used his sticky-backed plastic to good effect, producing mock-ups of the individual documents comprising an LDF with ‘add-on’ elements for each update necessitated by the ordered preparation of these documents.  Whilst somewhat light-hearted in tone, the underlying message was clear, namely that following the required process would result in considerable, continuing pressure on resources which are more often than not limited and/or dependent on Planning Delivery Grants. The implication being that any loss in funding would inevitably have a detrimental effect on an Authority’s ability to keep the LDF process on track. 

A second, welcome, interlude was provided by Will Jewell of Lewes District Council who introduced a short, humorous, film on LDF’s and promoting community involvement... Definately thought- provoking and informative, it’s readily available (for a small fee!) from LDC.  Will can be contacted at for further information and orders. 

Kate Gordon of CPRE (unfortunately deprived of her Powerpoint Presentation due to a slight technical hitch) then helped to focus attention on the potential assistance which informed local communities could offer the LDF process, helping to better manage change. She did, however, point out that consultation with ‘relevant’ groups could be open to abuse and/or misuse in addition to which there was an underlying risk of ‘consultation fatigue’. Meaningful consultation was the best way of empowering communities.

The final contribution was made by Clare Smith of Elmbridge Borough Council who spoke on Community Conservation Area Appraisals, drawing on her experience in the Elmbridge Pilot Study. In this instance, the EH Capacity Building Fund was being used to encourage community participation with, amongst other things, Conservation Area design award programmes being shown to have raised awareness and improved standards. Clare did, however, emphasise that getting the community to do the work doesn’t mean to say that officer involvement is reduced!

Overall, the day was informative but perhaps added to concerns regarding the implications of the LDF process for those Authorities with limited resources. Only time will tell if such concerns prove to be founded in fact but I for one have considerable reservations as to how much implementing the new ‘streamlined’ process may cost the conservation movement.

The content of the powerpoint presentations of the day are available for viewing to help share the experience and for some, the learning process.

Sept 2004