On the Setting of Listed Buildings – Is the SoS making it impossible to build sustainable urban extensions anywhere?

Somewhere behind these trees is a listed farmhouse whose rural setting is being harmedThere is no site of a potential new settlement in England that doesn’t impact on the setting of a listed building and/or ancient monument.

Go to any new town or Grden City and you find many old buildings and even whole vilages that have replaced rural settings with urban ones.  In many cases ehnacing settings as people get to appreciate timbered framed buildings close to that in some cases were inaccessible from any public right of way.

What concerns me is that at a number of recent SoS appeal decisions he has let the ‘less than substantial harm’ to listed buildings which currently have a rural setting to outweigh housing gain.  A test so strict no garden community or SUE could survive it.


And the 2015 Fleet Marston Appeal where an urban extension to Aylesbury was refused even though the site was next to a new railway station outside the Green Belt with a direct service to London.

The Heritage England guidance not on setting of heritage assets states

Conserving or enhancing heritage assets by taking their settings into account need not prevent change; indeed change may be  positive, for instance where the setting has been compromised by poor development. Many places coincide with the setting of a heritage asset and are subject to some degree of change over time. NPPF policies, together with the guidance on their implementation in the Planning Policy Guidance (PPG), provide the framework for the consideration of change affecting the setting of undesignated and designated heritage assets as part of the decision-taking process

Yes this appears to have been given very little weight in the above two appeals.  Clearly in determining the directions of growth of a settlement heritage considerations will need to be weighed in the balance, and unnecessary harm to areas of particularly sensitivity avoided.  But the outcome of these two appeals seems to set an impossibly high bar, affect the original rural setting of a single building = knockout.

The guidance needs to recognise that urbanisation  of 300.000 dwellings per annum will inevitably change the setting of some heritage assets, and that replacement of a rural setting with an urban one should not necessarily be of great harm where there is potential to enhance the setting of heritage assets with well designed new urban settings.  In some cases for example the grounds of historic buildings have made excellent new public open spaces in new towns.