HELM Local Authority Guidance Summary Report

An important part of the HELM initiative has been to assemble information on guidance published by local authorities and other organisations on the historic environment. Whilst it is known that many organisations produce such guidance there has, until now, been no systematic attempt to collate this information in one publicly available source. Information has been collected by means of a postal questionnaire, backed by email and telephone follow up. Data collected relates to all aspects of the historic environment but specifically excludes site-specific guidance such as planning briefs or conservation area appraisals. A positive response to the survey has been received, with 155 authorities returning the questionnaire (approximately 31% of the total number of authorities in England). Of those responding the majority (79%) have been found to produce published guidance on historic environment matters.

The number of publications produced, and the range of topics covered, varies considerably. The most common categories are advice to owners on listed buildings and conservation areas. Other popular topics include advice on the design of shop fronts and advertisements and many organisations also produce general advice on repair techniques to historic buildings e.g. brickwork, pointing, use of lime and thatch. Amongst the more unusual topics are conservation and sustainability, colour schemes for historic buildings and highway treatment in historic areas.

The quality and size of documents varies considerably. Some authorities produce simple A4 folded sheets containing basic information with no supporting illustrations, whereas others produce more lengthy illustrated booklets, in some cases running to in excess of 50 pages. Despite this variation most documents are informative, and many have been adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance. Most authorities produce information for use solely within their own area, but there is also a growing number of examples of cross-boundary collaboration, where groups of authorities have worked together to produce guidance, e.g. Suffolk Conservation Manual on Highways Works in Conservation Areas.

At present very few authorities publish their guidance documents on the web, although the survey reveals that many propose to do so. A number of authorities have responded to the effect that they have guidance information in draft form expected to be available shortly.

The list of guidance publications that appears on the HELM website relies on information supplied by responding organisations. It is recognised that there is likely to be considerably more published guidance that does not yet appear, and English Heritage would be extremely pleased to receive information for inclusion on the website.

Please email with details of historic environment guidance from your local authority. Alternatively, please send a copy to:

HELM, English Heritage, , , London EC1N 2ST

Report written by Philip Grover, Oxford Brookes, January 2005.

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