Development proposals for large structures in rural areas are often controversial, generating considerable debate and opposition. This is particularly true in recent years for onshore wind farms where the setting of designated heritage assets has regularly featured in reasons for objecting to or refusing planning permission. With many of these applications ultimately determined at public inquiries, heritage setting has been the subject of intensive scrutiny and debate. Headland has been closely involved with this debate and the continuing evolution of professional good practice in the assessment of setting.
Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) had applied for planning permission to construct and operate an Energy from Waste facility near Haresfield in Gloucestershire. This was designed to handle the residual waste from Gloucestershire which UBB had been contracted to handle by Gloucestershire County Council (GCC). The application was refused by GCC, with reasons for refusal that included harm to the setting of designated heritage assets; a position supported by advice from Historic England. UBB appealed against this decision.
At this stage, Headland Archaeology’s Stephen Carter was invited by UBB to give advice on heritage matters and went on to give evidence at the public inquiry. The Council’s heritage case was based on harm to the setting of a variety of assets, all examples of rural building types typically cited in these cases: medieval parish churches, country houses with designed landscapes, and historic farmhouses. The appeal was recovered by the Secretary of State and the recommendation by the Inspector that the appeal be allowed was subsequently endorsed by the SoS.
Whilst the positive outcome of the appeal was highly gratifying for UBB and an endorsement of our evidence, the Inspector’s report has particular importance from a cultural heritage perspective. This is because the Inspector took the unusual step of reaching conclusions about methods of assessment relating to setting: typically inquiry reports are restricted to a commentary on specific assets and avoid general methodological principles. The relevant text can be read in full in the Inspector’s report (Land at Javelin Park, near Haresfield, Gloucestershire, APP/T1600/A/13/2200210, paras 1169-1193) but key points include the need to fully explain how setting contributes to the significance of a heritage asset and how a proposed development would affect that contribution.
The setting of heritage assets remains an evolving area in cultural heritage practice; Headland will continue to engage in the debate and refine its own approaches to this key topic.
Renewable Energy (EfW)
Urbaser Balfour Beatty