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Rare praise for new heritage laws, but...

[Monday 12 March 2007]
bolton abbey
New protection for heritage sites
Photo shows Bolton Priory in Wharfedale

PLANS to increase protection for English heritage sites brought rare praise for the Government from one of its sternest critics, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.

Under the new system, announced in the White Paper published yesterday, a single designation regime would replace the current systems of listed building and scheduled ancient monument consent; stronger protection would be given for World Heritage Sites, and there would be more public involvement in decisions about what is protected.

The new rules would have a significant impact in the Yorkshire Dales, an area that has a higher proportion of listed buildings than any other National Park.

Kate Gordon, CPRE planning campaigner commented: "We strongly welcome many of the measures proposed, which are long overdue. The creation of buffer zones around World Heritage Sites and bringing the demolition of locally listed buildings under planning controls should help address weaknesses in the current system."

But she added a warning: "Some of the measures, however well intentioned, will not work unless the issue of resources is addressed. Disturbingly, the White Paper is largely silent on this issue.

'Some local authorities have no dedicated conservation officers, and in others resources are seriously stretched. We believe there should be a statutory obligation on local authorities to have suitably qualified conservation staff to advise on all heritage matters.

'Pressures for development are often greatest in those areas which have a wealth of historic and cultural assets. If we are to safeguard our heritage from damage it will be vital that development proposals are effectively scrutinised.'

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