Monday, 16 May 2011

The UK government published a Draft Heritage Protection Bill in April

Write an essay which critically assesses the main changes proposed in the document. How will these proposals impact on England’s heritage? What has been the response and involvement of lead bodies such as English Heritage, IFA, CBA, CPRE, ect?

Grade 2:1

The Draft Heritage Protection Bill was published in 2008 for England and Wales as a way of consolidating the many Acts passed by the government to protect the historic environment of England & Wales. The Heritage Protection Bill proposes a complete revision of the existing laws that protect the historic environment. It was an attempt to reform the following acts that professionals have become accustomed to over the years.

  • ·         The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 – for Scheduled Monument and Archaeological Areas.
  • ·         The Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 – for Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas.
  • ·         The Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 – for grant and acquisition powers.
  • ·         The Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 – for historic marine wrecks.

It will attempt to be a plan for a more simplified and assessable way of protecting the heritage of England and Wales. This is a positive step forward as it will make the protection measures more easily accessible for the public to understand and therefore attract interest for more people to be concerned about what happens to our heritage (DCMS 2008).

The Bill is however only a draft which was created for pre legislative scrutiny by anyone concerned with the protection, conservation and presentation of the historic environment. Many archaeological organisations will be affected by the by the new measures proposed in the Bill and have voiced their opinions as a result. Namely the institute for Field Archaeologist (IFA), the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and perhaps most importantly English Heritage whom it will directly affect.

Overview of the main changes proposed

The Bill is made up of six major parts all of which will be summarised here. One of the most major changes to the laws governing the heritage protection of England and Wales is the responsibility for heritage assets in England will be transferred from the Secretary of State English Heritage. This will effectively put all powers over heritage in England and Wales out of the government’s hands and into the organisation English Heritage which owns and manages thousands of sites (English Heritage 2008).

In Wales however the process is different as they have their own equivalent called cadw which is a body of the Welsh Government. Therefore when the Bill becomes law it will be followed through by them and not their counterparts (CADW 2008).

The Bill will endeavour to elucidate on the existing laws which have in the past made identifying and designating heritage in England and Wales a complicated labyrinth of legislation which needed to be applied to all situations where the historic environment was concerned. For example Stonehenge is protected by The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, but it is also a world Heritage site protected by English Heritage. This makes the laws governing the site a convolution of restricted access and extra administration.

One of the first outlines listed for change in the Heritage Protection Bill is the need for a public archive of the sites under protection of English Heritage and cadw. Part 1, chapter 1 of the bill states that

‘English Heritage must compile up to date registers of heritage assets.’ (DCMS 2008)

This is to be called the heritage register for England and Wales and will be made available online. A heritage asset is defined as:

  • Heritage structures,
  • Heritage open spaces,
  • World Heritage sites,
  • Marine heritage sites (could also be a world heritage site).

Lists of ‘assets’ will be easily available to the public along with their details, making this a very accessible and engaging way of presenting the information to amateurs and professionals alike. The list will also be an attempt to consolidate the existing system of Listed Buildings and Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

English Heritage and Cadw will also be required to consult the landowner when considering a site for designation. The land owner will also have the right to appeal against the decision to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Therefore the owners have the right to legal protection whilst their case is being considered.

Local authorities will also be given extra power to grant historic assets consent taking away the responsibility from the government who currently grant Scheduled Monuments consent. English heritage will be available for advice if this becomes the case (English Heritage 2008).

There will be new laws governing the use of metal detectors making it an offence to remove from a site that affects it’s special interest. Because of the Bill’s consolidation of the existing legislation, the laws governing metal detectors will cover all areas regarded as heritage open spaces Taylor p 46 2008).

A new marine heritage license would give a procedure for making activities on marine heritage sites.

One change proposed has been particularly anticipated by archaeologist which are the Historic Environment records. Local authorities would be duty bound to create and maintain these. The records will be made publically available again making the information easily accessible unlike the existing methods of requesting for HER’s at your local authority. The HER’s will be known as registered heritage assets and will be free (ibib).
The main aim proposed in the Bill is to simplify the current system to engage the public in how our heritage is protected and why it is so important to do so. By doing this it will make the laws governing heritage assets much easier to process.

‘Creating a single Historic Asset Consent to replace existing separate forms of consent...this will alleviate the current conservation bottleneck which can slow down the planning process cases.’ (English Heritage 2008)


The Draft Heritage Protection Bill has been very much anticipated before its publication April 2008. Because of its immediate effect to archaeological remains and sites, leading bodies such as the IFA (Institute for Field Archaeologist) and CBA (Council for British Archaeology) have published their response to the changes proposed.

‘IFA was involved s a consultee during the drafting of the Bill...and has written to DCMS to congratulate on its progress so far.’ (Taylor 2008, 47)

The IFA’s broad development in archaeology would mean the changes proposed in the Bill would affect the way they practise. Therefore it was important that they give their own feedback as the IFA’s response will have influence over the new legislation and there may be some vital areas of failures which need to be pointed out. For the most part the changes are welcomed by the organisation however there were some key areas where archaeologist are concerned where details need to be considered.

There were considerations to be made on a number of points, namely that registered heritage assets may continue to be damaged by ploughing therefore it seems the Bill will not affect the existing laws to the degree that was anticipated. There was also concern over Work Heritage sites having no additional protection. As outlined, places like Stonehenge currently have a multitude of legislation to protect them and questions will need to be asked whether the proposed Bill will be capable of protecting important sites, which are not just of interest to people in England and Wales, but the world, as they currently are. Other issues pointed out by the IFA are the amount of funding needed to generate the changes put forward.

‘English Heritage has secured only half the £11 million it estimates that it will require.’ (Taylor 2008, 47)

It is suggested by Taylor (2008) that this would lead to overstretching of local authorities which can only lead to the detriment of the heritage concerned. For Wales however the story is better as the changes would lead to little rise in cost.

The Council for British Archaeology also published their response to the Bill in 2008. Their feedback on the whole was a positive one believing the changes will make for a stronger and more effective system. The CBA do however have some issues regarding the heritage asset consent process which requires permission for any works affecting the ‘assets’ special interest. This will take over the existing scheduled monument consent whereby permission is sought for any works. The newer system is therefore not as defined as the older one and relies on a lot more judgement. This point highlights the fact that some areas will require more guidance when the Bill becomes new legislation (CBA 2008).

The Bill also outlines ‘the duty to have regard’ which in current legislation refers to registered heritage structures and open spaces. The new system does not extend ‘the duty to have regard’ to nationally important sites of archaeological interest which are not registered therefore they will not be protected in the same way.

The IFA and CBA is a national amenity site which if the changes are put forward would need to work closely with English Heritage. It is therefore in their best interest to propose ways of protecting our heritage when it comes to archaeological remains as this is where they are most concerned.


The Campaign to Protect Rural England published a short response to the Bill on their website. They ask that the new Bill will offer the same protection that the existing legislation does.

‘We will be seeking safeguards to ensure that new arrangements maintain and do not erode Conservation Area status as a result of merging conservation area consent with planning consent.’ (CPRE 2008)

The concerns here are the same as others that the CPRE do not want the proposal of merging the legislation to affect how the heritage is currently protected. They do stress that the systems willonly work if it can be resourced properly, meaning that the new online system would have to work in order for the changes to have been worth it.


The English National Parks Authorities association represents all the national parks in England and they welcome the reform believing it to be long overdue. However some of the terminology has been scrutinised as the changes are meant to make availability to the public easier. They suggest that all encompassing words that people understand are a better way of presenting the information. For example, the word ‘landscape’ to replace ‘heritage structure.’

There is also some concern over the fact that new reforms would not be sufficient enough to replace the current legislation in protecting national parks, suggesting that additional protection may be needed.

Current Archaeology

The monthly publication, Current Archaeology, expressed their views on the draft heritage protection Bill.

There response was a speculative one as the Bill was yet to be published, however they do point out a number of issues to be considered.

‘The secretary of State may grant either general or specific consent for certain damaging works, This attitude has been deeply resented by many academics as it implies that all research is damage.’ (Selkrik 2003, 342)

This view is particularly insulting to practical archaeologists who carry out excavations on important sites as the negative language implies that all intrusive work on a site has no other gain than to destroy it.

It is proposed in the article that a site left to be destroyed by ploughing, dewatering or the passage of time should welcome all the research it can so we can have a better understanding of the site.


The response to the draft heritage protection Bill has been wide and varying as it directly affects the way that leading bodies and organisations in the field will have to work if the Bill becomes law. Most notably is English Heritage as all responsibility will be passed on to them. This is a huge responsibility and it is debatable as to whether they will have the funding to do so.

Most other organisations welcome the changes they do however have some major concerns about how well the reforms will actually be at protecting our heritage when put in to action.

The changes however may prove positive for the historic environment as a whole as making the information more accessible to the public will make the subject more of a concern to the general public and not just to the specialist. This may inevitably generate more funding for the protection of sites that people will have a better understanding of.

The Bill could have an extensive impact on England’s heritage as the protection of sites and monuments will be entirely different. There are a vast number of organisations that work for the historic environment and people will have to be educated and trained in how to effect the changes. It will also affect England’s heritage as most organisations have expressed concern over the new protections being adequate enough, and most people have suggested that better protection will be need to be added to the Bill in order to implement the changes.


Publication of Draft (CADW)
British Archaeology
English Heritage
Selkirk, Current  Archaeology
Taylor, The Archaeologist

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