District Local Plan Review

District-Wide Policies Index

Settlement Policies Index

Chapter 9

Historic Environment

Introduction
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9.1 The historic environment of the Forest of Dean is rich and varied, a reflection of the long period of occupation by man and the exploitation of its resources of timber, water, stone, coal, mineral ores and soils. The District is particularly rich in the archaeological remains of industrial activity of all periods, including features such as quarries, mines, railways, tram roads, canals and buildings, and associated features reflecting the working of natural resources. Many of these features have largely been lost as a result of neglect or redevelopment. The lowland agricultural areas also display important buildings and features reflecting their long history of occupation and exploitation.
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9.2 The survival of the ancient Forest of Dean, a former royal forest, is a major feature of the historic landscape in its own right. Its relatively intact survival has also resulted in the preservation of many features of historic interest, including the former railways and tram roads, and the remains of the mineral workings they served.
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9.3 The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act of 1990 provides the basis for giving enhanced protection to areas of special architectural or historic interest by designating appropriate areas as Conservation Areas. There are 26 Conservation Areas in the District, each of which displays its own individual character. They vary from nucleated agricultural settlements in the rich farmlands in the north of the District to former industrial villages in the coalfield areas of the south of the District. They are listed as an Appendix to the Plan.
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9.4 Individual buildings of special architectural or historic interest may be Listed as such under the 1990 Act. There are around 1,450 Listed Buildings in the Forest of Dean. PPG 15 states that such buildings are a finite resource and an irreplaceable asset, and that there should be a general presumption in favour of the preservation of Listed buildings.
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9.5 There is a rich and diverse archeological heritage in the Forest of Dean both in terms of sites which are protected because of their national significance to more locally important sites where careful interpretation can help explain the special character and development of the area since earliest times. Increasingly there is an awareness of the importance of the relationship of individual sites within the landscape, their setting and the links between them. Any development proposals should take account of the need to investigate their archaeological potential for revealing important clues to the past uses of the site and the lives of the people who inhabited the area in previous generations.
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Issues

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9.6 The Plan must provide a framework of policies that give proper protection to retaining the historic environment, and enable appropriate enhancement, re-use and investment to take place to safeguard future preservation. There has been a significant increase in the number of conversions of historic buildings. Great care is necessary to ensure that changes do not result in the loss of important features of the original, or a change in the overall appearance of buildings and their setting. As many historic buildings and features are in the core of settlements they are frequently under pressure for alteration to accommodate the changing needs of commercial occupiers. A balance must be struck between supporting growth in the local economy, securing investment to aid in the preservation of the building, while ensuring that the integrity of the historic building or feature is preserved for future generations.
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9.7 The Council has embarked upon the preparation of Character Assessments for each of the Conservation Areas in the District. The Assessments identify the principal features and the underlying character of a Conservation Area. They also identify the actions required for enhancement. As such they offer important additional guidance to the application of the Plan policies in such areas. To date three Character Assessments have been completed and will be placed on deposit with the Plan as Supplementary Planning Guidance. (See Appendix for a list).
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9.8 The Council will provide advice and guidance with respect to development proposals affecting the historic environment. A limited historic building grant scheme is available to provide financial assistance for the improvement of historic buildings. The Council has operated Town Schemes and a Conservation Area Partnership, in conjunction with English Heritage, which have provided targeted financial aid to historic building renovations. Further partnership schemes will be promoted during the Plan period. The Council will also participate in joint schemes to develop proposals for particular sites requiring positive management, such as Lydney Docks, which is an Ancient Monument. The special needs of buildings at risk are also being addressed by the Council, through the preparation of a register of such buildings, continual monitoring of their condition, and measures to promote their preservation and re-use.
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Strategic Framework
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9.9 The Plan will provide for the protection and enhancement of historic buildings and areas, and sites and features of archaeological importance. Proposals for development will be required to have regard to the importance of preserving the historic environment.
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9.10 The Plan policies will provide the necessary provisions to enable appropriate investment in change and development affecting the historic environment which will help secure the future preservation of this finite resource.
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9.11 The Council will continue to prepare Conservation Area Character Assessments to assist in the preservation and enhancement of such areas. Advice, guidance and where possible funding will be provided to assist proposals for development with respect to the historic environment.

Objectives

  1. To safeguard the character and setting of buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
  2. To protect or enhance areas containing important groups of buildings of architectural or historic importance and sites of archaeological interest
  3. To ensure that proposals for development have regard to safeguarding the historic environment.

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Policies and Proposals
Preservation and Enhancement of Conservation Areas
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(R)FHE.1

The Council will seek to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of designated Conservation Areas and will review from time to time the need for further designations. Development which would detract from the visual, historic or architectural character of such areas or their settings will not be permitted. Consideration will be given to the use of Article 4 directions where permitted development would be likely to have an adverse effect, particularly upon a programme or scheme of conservation works, or on buildings which have been grant aided.

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9.12 Areas of special architectural or historic interest can be designated Conservation Areas. Within such areas there is an increased level of control over development, including restrictions on the demolition of unlisted buildings, protection for trees, and certain works require planning permission which in other circumstances would be permitted development. These powers, together with the duty to formulate and publish proposals for preservation or enhancement, are designed to assist in the safeguarding of the special character and appearance of Conservation Areas. A full list of Conservation Areas in the District is given in an Appendix to the Plan, together with the Conservation Area Character Assessments which have been completed. The latter provide additional guidance with respect to the distinctive features of Conservation Areas. They will be placed on deposit with the Plan as supplementary planning guidance.
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9.13 New development is not precluded in Conservation Areas, but new buildings or additions must pay due regard to the need to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the area. New development which would be detrimental to features which create the distinctive character of individual Conservation Areas will not be permitted. The Design Guidance prepared by the Council provides a context for the design of alterations.
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9.14 There are currently 26 designated Conservation Areas in the District. No new designations are proposed in this Plan. However, the Council will consider further designations, or amendments to existing boundaries, where changing circumstances dictate.
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9.15 In order to ensure as far as possible that new development will complement and enhance the existing character of a Conservation Area, the Council will generally seek a full application for development. Where outline applications are submitted the Council will seek sufficient additional information to fully illustrate their effect.
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9.16 It is open to the Council to seek controls over what would otherwise be permitted development by making a direction under Article 4 of the General Development Order. Directions could be useful where permitted development would be unsympathetic to a programme or scheme of conservation works or to buildings which have been grant aided.
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Demolition in Conservation Areas
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(R)FHE.2

Where buildings or walls in any Conservation Area make a positive contribution to the character or appearance of that Conservation Area, their total or substantial demolition will not be permitted unless:

  1. All reasonable efforts have been made to sustain existing uses or to find viable new uses
  2. Preservation in some form of charitable or community ownership is not possible
  3. Redevelopment would produce substantial benefits for the community that would decisively outweigh the loss resulting from demolition.

Where the buildings or walls make little or no positive contribution to the character or appearance of a Conservation Area, their demolition will be permitted, but only if the demolition proposal is accompanied by fully detailed and acceptable plans for the redevelopment proposed after demolition which demonstrate that the redevelopment scheme will preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the Conservation Area.

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9.17 In Conservation Areas there are additional planning controls, which extend to the need to seek permission to demolish buildings and other structures. In most cases the aim will be to seek the refurbishment of buildings and their retention in order to maintain the continuity of the appearance and character of the Conservation Area. However, there will be existing buildings which can be shown to contribute little to the Conservation Area. In these circumstances, and where a replacement proposal would enhance the area, then demolition may be possible. Consent for demolition will only be given where there are acceptable and detailed plans for the redevelopment of the site. In considering proposals for demolition in Conservation Areas it will be relevant to consider the criteria set out in paragraph 9.20 below, relating to the demolition of Listed Buildings.
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Alterations to Listed Buildings and their Settings
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(R)FHE.3

Proposals for development involving internal or external alterations or additions to a Listed Building, or which are in close proximity to a Listed Building, will be permitted only where:

  1. The proposal preserves the features of special historic or architectural interest which have contributed to its Listing
  2. The proposal will not adversely affect the setting of a Listed Building
  3. The proposal complements the Listed Building in design and materials.

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9.18 Buildings listed under Section 1 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 are regarded as being of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. They reflect a living record of the past in terms of the use of materials, skills, technology, land use and styles of living. Buildings which are Listed are given a special protection by statute. The above Policy does not preclude alterations or extensions to Listed Buildings, but it does require that a special duty of care should be exercised to ensure that any change is sympathetic and in character with the building, its internal spaces, its historical context and its setting. Government circulars and advice, particularly PPG.15, stress the need to consider the following matters:
  1. The importance of the building, both in itself and in relation to its surroundings in the neighbourhood
  2. The architectural and historic merit of the building which includes its building construction details and its importance in representing an historic period
  3. The extent to which the proposed works would bring substantial benefits for the community, particularly to the economic regeneration of the area, or the enhancement of the environment and including other Listed Buildings in the area.

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9.19 The Council currently operates an Historic Buildings Grant scheme which makes available limited grant aid to support the restoration of Listed Buildings. Advice on methods of repair and restoration, materials and skills available in the area are also freely available. A Conservation Area Partnership is operating in Coleford town centre as part of the Coleford Partnership. The effect of a Conservation Area Partnership scheme is to attract additional resources and higher grant levels to building repair in a concentrated area and over a short period of years. The Council will investigate the opportunities for the designation of further such partnership schemes.
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Demolition Affecting Listed Buildings
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(R)FHE.4

The demolition of Listed Buildings will be permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Exceptions will be made only where compelling evidence is available that shows:

  1. Every possible effort has been made to repair and restore the building and to continue the present use or to find a suitable alternative use for the building; and
  2. Redevelopment would produce substantial benefits for the community which would outweigh the loss resulting from the building demolition; and
  3. There is no interest by prospective occupiers or purchasers following the property being offered on the open market.

Where consent for the demolition of a Listed Building is granted it will be conditional upon the appropriate archaeological recording of the building prior to demolition.

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9.20 There is a statutory duty to secure the preservation of Listed Buildings. The great majority of Listed Buildings are capable of continuing beneficial use and with skilled and sympathetic treatment new development can usually be made to blend happily with the old. Guidance to local authorities on the criteria for determining whether to allow the partial or total demolition of a Listed Building is set out in central government circulars and advice, particularly Planning Policy Guidance 15: Planning and the Historic Environment. The advices stresses the need to consider the following matters in addition to those set out in paragraph 9.18 of this section:
  1. The condition of the building, the cost of repairing and maintaining it in relation to its importance and the value derived from its continuing use
  2. The adequacy of efforts made to retain the building in use. This could, in certain circumstances, include the offer of the unrestricted freehold of the building on the open market at a realistic price reflecting the condition of the building

  3. The merits of alternative proposals for the site. There may be exceptional circumstances where the proposed works would bring substantial benefits to the community which have to be weighed against the arguments in favour of preservation.

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9.21 Applications for the demolition of most Listed Buildings have to be referred to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions for consideration. Where a consent is forthcoming it may be conditioned to prevent demolition until a contract has been signed for works to erect a replacement building. In the case where demolition or partial demolition is permitted or where permission is given for the removal of features the proper recording of the building will be required before changes are made.
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9.22 The Council is empowered to take action where Listed Buildings appear to have been allowed to fall into disrepair, and will consider such action where circumstances demand it.
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Change of Use of Buildings of Architectural or Historic Importance
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(R)FHE.5

Where an alternative use is proposed for a Listed Building or a building of local historic or architectural importance planning permission will be granted where it can be demonstrated that the proposal will preserve the historic and architectural character of the building in its setting and that no other reasonable alternative use exists which would better safeguard the architectural or historic importance of the building.

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9.23 It is sensible to keep historic buildings in active use to improve their chances of remaining in good condition. However, not all old buildings are suitable for conversion and some of the new uses proposed might be inappropriate. For instance, many former agricultural buildings are often more suitable for use for commercial and industrial purposes rather than residential purposes. The extent of alterations required for the new use, for example to provide openings in previously solid walls, and the changes to the settings of such buildings, are often incompatible with their architectural and historic character. The degree of internal and external alterations and extension required will be of primary importance when considering the acceptability of alternative uses for historic properties.
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9.24 The Council will adopt a positive attitude in considering the future use of these important buildings. In particular, a sympathetic view can be taken of potential new uses where this would assist the preservation of the building. However, regard will also be given to the advice in PPG 7 with respect to the most appropriate uses for redundant rural buildings, which suggests that commercial uses may be preferable to residential uses. Policy (R)FBE.5 identifies the criteria for the commercial re-use of rural buildings.
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9.25 Many old buildings of interest have a strong relationship with their surroundings. Inappropriate development affecting the setting of these buildings can cause as much harm as an alteration or extension to the building itself, particularly where there is an extensive curtilage and other curtilage buildings.
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Development Affecting Archaeological Sites
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(R)FHE.6

Nationally important archaeological remains whether scheduled or not will be required to be preserved in-situ. Planning permission will not be granted for development which would involve significant alteration or damage to such remains or which would have a significant impact on the setting of visible remains.

Where proposals affect remains of lesser importance, planning permission will only be granted where the need for the development outweighs all other material considerations, and where appropriate and satisfactory arrangements have been made and can be implemented for the excavation and recording of any remains.

Where permitted, development affecting remains of archaeological importance must be implemented in such a manner as to minimise any adverse effect on the remains concerned.

In all matters relating to this policy the Council and the developer will be expected to take appropriate specialist advice.

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Requirement to Provide Archaeological Information
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(R)FHE.7

Development proposals likely to affect sites of archaeological interest and their settings or within areas of known or likely archaeological potential must be accompanied by an archaeological assessment appraising the likely extent or nature of the archaeology, together with an indication of how the impact of the proposals on the archaeological remains will be mitigated. This information will be a material consideration when determining an application.

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9.26 Known archaeological sites and areas in the Forest of Dean are recorded on the County Sites and Monuments Record which contains information on over 2,600 entries. The Record includes all Scheduled Ancient Monuments, which are shown on the Proposals Map of this Plan, and also listed in an Appendix to the Plan. Such scheduled sites comprise only a small proportion (less than 2%) of the known archaeology. There is a presumption in favour of the preservation of such scheduled remains. In addition the Secretary of State has published guidance on the criteria which should be referred to in determining the national importance of other, as yet unscheduled, remains. English Heritage is undertaking a review of County Sites and Monuments which is leading to a significant increase in the number of Scheduled Ancient Monuments.
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9.27 The Plan will seek to resist development proposals which would adversely affect nationally important sites and their settings in recognition of the importance of preserving irreplaceable evidence of the past, and as an educational and tourism resource. The policy will also only allow development affecting sites of lesser importance where the need for the development outweighs the importance of the remains. In these cases development will only be allowed subject to the proper recording and/or excavation of the affected site. The Council will have due regard to the advice given in Planning Policy Guidance notes issued by the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions in the implementation of this policy.
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9.28 It is important to consult the County Sites and Monuments Record at an early stage for advice and information since it offers the most comprehensive index to archaeological and historic remains in the area. Advice is available on the archaeological implications of a proposed site. It should be noted that a separate application for consent to English Heritage will be required for any development affecting an Ancient Monument.
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9.29 Archaeological assessment is sometimes recommended even if there are no known archaeological remains, for example, where the proximity of known sites, historical sources or environmental factors such as soil or geology, suggest a high probability that archaeological remains will be present. With information from a preliminary appraisal of a site, the Council and the applicant can consider how the archaeology of a site can be protected. The assessment and any field evaluation required should be prepared from reputable and qualified sources. Often the applicant can prepare sympathetic designs which minimise disturbance to the remains, and avoid the need for rescue excavations. Alternatively the assessment may pick up little of interest and all that is required is a simple watching brief. In all cases however, the preferred solution will be a design and layout which minimises the adverse impact of the development on the archaeological remains.
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9.30 Where it is proposed to allow development which affects an archaeological site the preferred option with respect to archaeological remains will be their physical preservation in situ. In exceptional circumstances where this is not feasible, permission will only be granted subject to satisfactory provision being made by the developer to ensure that appropriate and satisfactory provision is made for the investigation and recording of the site. Such arrangements may be specified by planning conditions or through a legal agreement, depending upon the particular site.
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9.31 Where development proposals affect a site with archaeological remains the District Council will always consider whether there is potential for the management and display of the remains as part of the development. In other cases the Council will support and encourage landowners and other interested groups in such proposals.
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Historic Parks and Gardens
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(R)FHE.8

Development proposals which would have an adverse effect on the character, features and setting of historic parks and gardens will only be permitted where they conform to the provisions of policies (R)FHE.6 and (R)FHE.7 with respect to the safeguarding of features of historic interest.

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9.32 The true value of Historic parks and gardens has only recently been recognised as an important part of the national heritage which should be protected. The Forest of Dean District contains a number of historic parks and gardens, some of which are included on the English Heritage register of parks and gardens of special historic interest. These are listed in an Appendix to the Plan, together with others which at present are regarded as being of more local significance. This list of registered parks and gardens and those of local significance is likely to increase as the register is reviewed and more sites of local importance are identified by the Gloucestershire Gardens Trust and English Heritage.

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9.33 All these sites contribute significantly to the heritage and environment of the District. They may contain parkland, ornamental gardens or kitchen gardens, and possibly may contain listed buildings, structures, or ornaments and important archaeological features. Although historic parks and gardens have no separate statutory protection, it is important to ensure that their character and setting are not adversely affected by new uses or other development proposals.
District Local Plan Review

District-Wide Policies Index

Settlement Policies Index

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Forest of Dean District Local Plan Review, 1st Deposit Draft. July 2000


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