Report: up-to-date local plans key to managing tall building impacts

The need for councils to have up-to-date local plans is key to ensure tall buildings are built in locations that do not negatively impact on the historic environment, according to new planning advice published by heritage watchdog Historic England.

Tall buildings: new planning advice note published (pic DncnH via Flickr)
Tall buildings: new planning advice note published (pic DncnH via Flickr)

Tall Buildings Historic England Advice Note 4 says that in "a successful plan-led system, the location and design of tall buildings will reflect the local vision for an area, and a positive, managed approach to development, rather than a reaction to speculative development applications".

It says that an up-to-date local plan "based on a sound evidence base will contain enough detail to allow the significance of heritage assets to be assessed and to secure a commitment to high quality design".

"This will help local planning authorities to identify in local plans areas where tall buildings would not be appropriate because of their adverse impact".

The document also says that, as part of local plan-making, the assembly of an evidence base "provides the opportunity for a more thorough upfront heritage assessment and urban design analysis, which will be tested through the options appraisal, environmental impact assessment, consultation and, where relevant, the duty to cooperate.

"This will create a stronger and more realistic policy base, which is beneficial to the applicant and local authority alike in guiding site selection and design", the document says.

The advice note also says that a heritage assessment and urban design framework "will help to identify the potential locations for tall buildings and can usefully be reflected in local plan policies and adopted as supplementary planning documents."

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: "There are many tall buildings being proposed at the moment, particularly in London, that could have a profound effect on the character of the place where people, work and live. The aim of the planning system is to deliver economic success whilst reinforcing local distinctiveness.

"We can do this if we all take real care to ensure that tall buildings are not just beautifully designed, but also in the right place. London’s historic environment is one of our greatest assets – culturally, socially and economically. It lies at the heart of London’s identity and distinctiveness, and its very success.

"It is at risk of being badly and irrevocably damaged. We have updated our advice on planning for tall buildings so it reflects our recent experience and restates the commitment in national planning policy to protect the historic environment."

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