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Energy efficiency, retrofitting, and sustainable construction supplementary planning document

Policy background

National Planning Policy Framework

The NPPF places significant emphasis on achieving sustainable development and core environmental principles such as improving biodiversity, using natural resources prudently, minimising waste and pollution, and mitigating and adapting to climate change including moving to a low carbon economy. These principles underpin this Supplementary Planning Document.

Our local policies

We are currently in the process of undertaking a Local Plan Partial Update. Therefore, whilst the guidance in this SPD supplements the following local policies in the placemaking plan, they will be subject to change as new policies emerge through the Partial Update, and other future policy updates.

Local Plan

Policies of particular relevance are likely to be D1 to D10 Design Policies; and BH2 and BH5 in relation to listed and historic buildings.

Core Strategy

This supplementary planning document supplements policies CP1 on Retrofitting; CP2 on Sustainable Construction; and CP3 on Renewable Energy.

Historic buildings legislative background

Designated heritage assets are protected by law under Planning (Listed Building & Conservation Areas) Act 1990 underpinned by government policy: National Planning Policy Framework, Section 16: Conserving and enhancing the historic environment. They are designated in recognition of their architectural or historic interest and the heritage and cultural significance and value that they possess.

The setting of heritage assets is an important material consideration when determining planning applications for development proposals which impact on their setting. Heritage assets are wide ranging and include designated and undesignated buildings, conservation areas, historic landscapes, parks and gardens and archaeological features and sites. Archaeological sites and features that have been designated as Scheduled Ancient Monuments are protected by law under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

Central to primary legislation and government policy is the special regard to the desirability of preserving heritage assets or any features of special architectural or historic interest. This SPD includes detailed guidelines on how to sensitively implement energy efficiency interventions in heritage assets to make it more likely that the intervention will comply with legislation and be looked upon favourably by us as the Local Planning Authority.

This guidance is informed and consistent with this, and with conservation best practice and responsible retrofitting as advocated by Historic England and the national amenity societies. Consistent with government policy relating to the historic environment, this guidance recognises that because heritage assets can be both designated and undesignated an equally sensitive and thoughtful and sensitive approach to change should be employed to both. This is particularly the case in Bath & North East Somerset which has large numbers of designated and undesignated assets. Designated assets include the City of Bath World Heritage Site, as well as numerous Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings.

Heritage assets

This SPD will include guidance for ‘heritage assets’, which applies to both undesignated and designated heritage assets. Consistent with the definition in NPPF guidance, our reference to ‘heritage assets’ applies to the following:

Heritage asset: A building, monument, site, place, area or landscape identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions, because of its heritage interest. It includes designated heritage assets and assets identified by the local planning authority (including local listing).

Designated heritage asset: A World Heritage Site, Scheduled Monument, Listed Building, Registered Park and Garden, Registered Battlefield, or Conservation Area designated under the relevant legislation.

Guidance position for retrofitting heritage assets

There is a duty under Section 16 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, when considering whether to grant listed building consent for any works and under Section 66 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 in considering whether to grant planning permission for development which affects a listed building or its setting, to have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building or its setting or any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses.

There is a duty under Section 72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 to pay special attention to the preservation or enhancement of the character of the surrounding conservation area.

The effect of an application on the significance of a non-designated heritage asset should be taken into account in determining an application. (National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 197).

In accordance with paragraph 193 of the National Planning Policy Framework, when considering the impact of a proposed development on the significance of a designated heritage asset, great weight has to be given to the asset’s conservation.  In this context in the cases of a designated heritage asset, where works will result in substantial harm NPPF p201 notes refuse consent, unless it can be demonstrated that the substantial harm or total loss is necessary to achieve substantial public benefit. Where works will result in less than substantial harm NPPF p202 requires the harm to be weighed against any public benefits.  With regard to the weighing of the heritage harm, it is important that this is not a simple balancing exercise. The Courts have stated that ‘considerable importance and weight’ must be given to the conservation of the heritage asset when carrying out the balancing exercise.

In this context the SPD seeks to illustrate and facilitate energy efficiency measures in all buildings including those of special historic or architectural interest and in areas with heritage designation.

In the context of these parameters set by the statutory scheme and the NPPF requirements for heritage assets we will:

  • in the light of the Climate Emergency, permit and encourage alterations with special regard to the desirability of preserving the building, or its setting, or any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses, which preserve or enhance the character of a conservation area, and which respect the significance of any non-designated heritage asset.
  • seek to proactively assist in finding solutions and techniques for retrofitting to achieve this wherever possible and give due consideration also to the balance of public benefits of any proposal as required by the NPPF.

Guidance is set out in this SPD, with the benefit of illustrations and case studies, which have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building or its setting or any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses, which preserve or enhance the character of a conservation area and which respect the significance of any non-designated heritage asset.

Aims and limitations of the guidance

Whilst this guidance aims to provide advice and assistance regarding alterations to heritage assets it should not be regarded as providing a ‘one-stop-shop’ or ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. Historic buildings are highly diverse in terms of type of construction, construction materials, plan form, degree of alteration over time and location and so planning decisions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

It is recommended that specific and detailed guidance provided by Historic England and other heritage organisations is also consulted. This is referenced on each of the retrofitting pages within the ‘Further guidance’ section, and more information is also provided in our Further information page. We can provide further assistance. The energy hierarchy and minimal intervention approach as advocated by Historic England is advocated in this guidance. You can find out more on our Key considerations page.

There is an expectation that, in the first instance, low impact, low cost and simple thermal upgrading measures are considered before higher impact measures, consistent with the energy hierarchy, which include occupant behaviour and sensible and responsible building maintenance.

Proportion of Planning Approvals in B&NES

It is important to note that the vast majority of planning and listed building applications in B&NES are consented. In the year between April 2020 and April 2021, the percentage of planning approvals in B&NES were as follows:

  • approved planning applications - 92%
  • approved listed building applications - 94%

This SPD aims to continue to this positive trend in relation to energy efficiency, renewable energy, retrofitting, and sustainable construction development proposals. It provides practical advice which sets out how changes and adaptions can be made in response to Climate Change, whilst also having regard to statutory legislation.