Ended on the 18 March 2021
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Chapter 7: The Historic Environment

(2) The Historic Environment

7.1 The Council places great importance on preserving the historic environment. Under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act the Council has a responsibility to have special regard to preserving listed buildings and must pay special attention to preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of conservation areas. The National Planning Policy Framework states that in decision making local authorities should give great weight to conservation of designated heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance. The Council expects that development not only conserves, but also takes opportunities to enhance, or better reveal the significance of heritage assets and their setting.

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Figure 7.1: Heritage benefits

7.2 Watford has a diverse and rich range of heritage assets including listed buildings, historic parks and gardens, conservation areas and assets of archaeological significance which make an important contribution towards the character and distinctiveness of the town (Figure 7.2). Some key elements of the town's heritage include:

  • Surviving buildings from the medieval core of the town (St Mary's Church, Almshouses, Fuller Free School;
  • 18th Century town houses (Frogmore House , 97 High Street, Little Cassiobury and Watford Museum);
  • Industrial heritage;
  • Parks, gardens and cemeteries;
  • Residential streets and buildings of the Victorian period; and
  • Innovative twentieth century buildings and housing developments.

7.3 All heritage assets (designated and undesignated) will be appropriately protected reflecting the importance of the designation and where appropriate enhanced.

7.4 New development can make a positive contribution to, or better reveal the significance of heritage assets and the Council will encourage this where appropriate. Well-designed proposals which protect and enhance the significance, character and setting of heritage assets which may be affected by the development will be supported.

7.5 The Council has a proactive approach to managing heritage assets and in addition to the Local Plan policies the Council protects the historic environment through the following guidance which should be considered as part of planning proposals where they apply:

  • Conservation Areas Management Plan;
  • Conservation Area Appraisal documents;
  • Local list of undesignated assets of local interest;
  • Register of buildings and structures at risk;
  • Supplementary planning documents to provide more detailed guidance on specific issues;
  • Article 4 Directions to protect designated and undesignated assets from small scale changes which are allowed under permitted development rights and which would erode the significance of those assets.

7.6 Proposals for new development which involve heritage assets or their setting should be accompanied by supporting material which shows that the development has understood the significance of the asset. This should be a combination of desktop and on-site investigation making use of the Historic Environment Records (HERs) database and relevant supplementary planning documents.

7.7 Detailed plans to an appropriate level will need to be submitted with applications, alongside design and access or heritage statements, to demonstrate how the heritage asset and its setting will be affected and to ensure that its significance is protected or enhanced.

7.8 Where a new heritage asset is revealed during the early phases of new development, the developer will be expected to work with the Council to seek a solution, as far as is practicable, which protects the significance of the new asset. Depending on the importance of the revealed assets proportionate changes to the scheme being proposed may be necessary.

(2) Strategic Policy HE7.1: Enhancement and Protection of the Historic Environment

Development proposals should embrace opportunities to use the historic environment to support good design and enhance the setting and understanding of the historic environment and improve Watford's historic character.

All development proposals involving heritage assets (designated and undesignated) should avoid causing harm to the significance of those assets, including their setting. Where this cannot be avoided measures to minimise or mitigate the harm caused will be considered and balanced against the heritage and public benefits arising from the development according to the importance of the asset and the extent of the impact to its significance.

Where loss, wholly or partly, is unavoidable developers are required to record and enhance the understanding of the significance of any heritage asset and to make this record publicly available.

Proposals will need to consider the potential adverse impacts on a heritage asset or its setting associated with cumulative development. Where there are potential cumulative effects, applicants should include design measures to mitigate this impact.

All development proposals involving heritage assets (designated and undesignated) or affecting the setting of assets should be supported by a Heritage Impact Assessment, proportional to the scheme proposed and significance of the heritage asset, prepared by a suitable qualified person.

Designated heritage assets

7.9 Designated assets within the borough include statutorily listed buildings, registered parks and gardens and conservation areas. It is important to ensure the significance of these assets is protected and where possible, better understood through any changes which have to be made to the assets. Proposals involving listed buildings and registered parks will need to clearly justify the positive contribution it will make and show that the proposal has been designed to avoid, and where possible, minimise the impact on the significance of the asset through appropriate enhancement and conservation measures.

7.10 Designated assets and in particular listed buildings and structures make an important and valued contribution to the distinctive character and appearance of the town and provide attractions for people visiting the town and cherished local landmarks.

Listed buildings

7.11 New development proposals involving listed buildings should avoid total or substantial demolition including those which propose the rebuilding behind the façade. Proposals should avoid causing harm to the setting of listed buildings and structures and where appropriate should seek to enhance and better reveal the significance of that setting.

7.12 Many minor alterations and some repairs to listed buildings, including those to the interior, which may affect the special interest of the building will require listed building consent. Proposals for changes to listed buildings may present opportunities to improve disabled access to those buildings. Solutions to improved accessibility will require a balancing of the need for access with the conservation and preservation of the asset. Design approaches for this should be supported by an audit of conservation constraints and access needs and should have considered all available options.

7.13 Proposals which seek to reduce energy consumption in listed buildings will be welcomed provided they do not cause harm to the significance of the building. Energy use can be reduced without harming the fabric or appearance of the building such as roof insulation, draught proofing, secondary glazing, more energy efficient boilers, heating and lighting and the use of green energy sources.

Conservation areas

7.14 Changes within conservation areas will be managed in a way which retains the distinctive character and appearance of that area and new development should make a positive contribution to this. Design and access statements or heritage statements should include an assessment of the character and context and show how the development proposed has been informed by this and how it contributes positively to it.

7.15 When considering applications for demolition in conservation areas account will be taken of group value, context and setting of buildings as well as their quality as individual structure and any contribution made to the setting of listed buildings. Applications for total / substantial demolition will be expected to:

  1. Demonstrate to the Council's satisfaction that effective measures will be taken during demolition and building works to ensure structural stability of retained parts and adjoining structures;
  2. Be justified in terms of the optimisation of resources and energy use in comparison with the existing building;
  3. Include plans which clearly show which parts of buildings are to be demolished;
  4. Provide detailed plans for redevelopment which are to be approved prior to permission for demolition being granted.

(1) Policy HE7.2: Designated Heritage Assets

Proposals will be supported where they will not result in the loss of, or substantial harm to an asset unless this will provide substantial public benefits that outweigh the harm or loss caused; where any harm caused to the significance of an asset is deemed to be less than substantial the public benefits from the scheme should convincingly outweigh the harm caused.

Designated buildings, structures and parks

Development involving a statutory listed building, scheduled ancient monument, its setting or a registered park or garden will be determined in accordance with their significance and value. To ensure the conservation of the listed buildings in Watford proposals should:

  1. Avoid total or substantial demolition of a listed building;
  2. Avoid changes of use, alterations, and extensions that would cause harm to special architectural and historic interest of the building; and
  3. Not cause harm to the significance of the listed building or its setting.

Conservation Areas

Development in conservation areas will be supported where they preserve and, where possible, enhance the character, appearance and significance of the designation and clearly demonstrate they:

  1. Use building design that is of an appropriate scale and materiality;
  2. Enhance existing features and structures which contribute to the significance of the Conservation Area;
  3. Do not significantly harm important views into, out of, or within the conservation area; and
  4. Preserve trees and other significant built and landscape features which contribute to the character and appearance of a conservation area or which provides a setting for local architectural heritage.

(1) Non-Designated heritage assets

7.16 Watford has many attractive and locally significant buildings and features including archaeological remains and landscapes which contribute to the distinctiveness of the town but which are not formally designated as heritage assets. The National Planning Policy Framework identifies these as non-designated assets. These can either be identified as part of the planning process or be on Watford's Local List or logged on the local Historic Environment Record (HER database). Watford's Local L-list identifies historic buildings and features which are valued by the local community. When planning permission is required for any proposal which directly or indirectly affects the significance of a non-designated asset then the Council will treat the significance of that asset as a material consideration when determining the application. Proposals for development must have regard to Watford's Local List of Buildings of Historic or Architectural Importance Supplementary Planning Document or equivalent and should take account of other non-designated assets which are logged on the Historic Environment Record database.

7.17 Proposals should be of a design and scale which preserves or enhances the features which contribute to its significance and should use building materials, features and finishes for features such as gates, walls, railings and hard surfacing which are appropriate to the setting of the asset and the local context. Where possible proposals should take the opportunity to remove unsympathetic alterations and restore or reinstate missing features.

(1) Policy HE7.3: Non-Designated Heritage Assets

To preserve and enhance the character, appearance and setting of Locally Listed Buildings all planning applications that affect Locally Listed Buildings will be determined in accordance with the following:

  1. Where demolition is proposed, it should be demonstrated that all reasonable attempts have been made to retain all or part of the building; and
  2. All alterations and extensions should enhance the building's character, setting and features and must not adversely affect the significance of the building.

Where other non-designated assets which are logged on the Historic Environment Record database lie within a site or are discovered during the course of site investigation work related to development proposals measures taken to enhance and protect those assets in line with Policy HE7.1 'Enhancement and Protection of the Historic Environment' should be explained and provided to support any applications for planning permission.

(1) Archaeology

7.18 Archaeological remains can provide great insight into the social and economic lives of people living many years ago and it is important to ensure that such remains, whether known or unknown are protected.

7.19 Where an application site includes, is considered to, or is found to have the potential to include, heritage assets with archaeological interest, it must be accompanied by an appropriate desk-based assessment and, where desk-based research is insufficient to properly assess the interest, a field evaluation.

7.20 Where the loss of the whole, or a material part of, the significance of a heritage asset of archaeological interest is justified, planning conditions will be included in any permission to ensure that an adequate record is made of the significance of the heritage asset before it is lost. This will be secured through an archaeological Written Scheme of Investigation which must include provision for appropriate publication of the evidence. The potential for local public engagement and dissemination should also be considered and included in the Written Scheme of Investigation where this is deemed to be appropriate.

(1) Policy HE7.4: Archaeology

New developments should protect remains of archaeological importance. Where a development may affect archaeological remains applicants will be required to submit an archaeological assessment as part of a planning application.

To protect the significance of archaeological assets, measures will need to be taken that are proportional to their importance to ensure the physical preservation of the assets and their setting. These measures should be prepared in collaboration with the County Council's historic environment advisors archaeologist and secured through planning conditions.

To take part in these consultations, you will first need to register as a user by clicking on the link at the top right of this page. Once you have registered, select a document, then comments can be given by clicking on the pen icon and writing in the form that appears. For further assistance please read our help guide.
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