Want to find out more about heritage in planning? Use the table of contents to navigate your way around the page.

Planning Direct can assist with all sorts of heritage projects, including:

  • planning applications affecting or involving heritage assets
  • planning appeals affecting or involving heritage assets
  • applications for listed building consent.

We have experience working on complex developments and with high status heritage assets, including Grade I listed buildings.

Our Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) are comprehensive documents that include consultation of the historic record in accordance with national requirements. We offer these either as part of our start-to-finish planning service or as one-off documents to accompany an existing project, ongoing application or new planning appeal. Click the button below to find out more about them.

In need of an HIA? Send us details of your project today for a free quotation.

This page contains some helpful information about developments affecting heritage assets, including what a “heritage asset” is and when a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) is required.

Click the button below to find out more about listed building consent, including what it is, when it is needed and what the consequences are if you fail to apply.


National planning guidance defines a heritage asset as:

A building, monument, site, place, area or landscape that has a high degree of significance because of its “heritage interest”*.

*more on this below.

Heritage assets include both statutorily designated heritage assets and non-designated heritage assets.

Designated assets

Statutorily-designated heritage assets are protected by law. They include:

  • Grade I, Grade I* and Grade II listed buildings
  • Conservation Areas
  • Scheduled Monuments
  • Registered Parks and Gardens
  • Registered Battlefields
  • World Heritage Sites.

Non-designated assets

Non-designated heritage assets are not protected by law but still have a high degree of heritage significance that is worthy of consideration in planning decisions. They are sometimes referred to as “locally listed” sites and buildings. They might be identified in a list published on your local council’s website or within a Conservation Area Appraisal. Sometimes, non-designated heritage assets are only identified by a local council in response to a planning application.

What is “heritage interest”?

To understand what a heritage asset is, you first need to understand what is meant by “heritage interest”. After all, heritage assets are just sites and buildings with a lot of heritage interest.

Heritage interest can arise due to many different factors. A site might have heritage interest because of multiple factors or only one. The more interest a heritage asset has, the greater its status will be.

In the table below, we’ve listed some of the most common factors that contribute towards heritage interest. This list is non-exhaustive.

Age and rarityThe older the asset, the greater the value. The fewer the surviving examples of its kind, the greater the value.
RepresentativityDoes it provide a typical and/or well-preserved example of its kind?
Aesthetic valueIs it visually pleasing, beautiful or remarkable?
Archaeological potentialIs it likely to contain evidence of past human activity (usually – but not always – buried)?
Historic valueDoes it tell us something about our social, economic, cultural or military history? For example, schools, churches and corn exchanges.
Social and communal valueDoes it have clear value to a local group, a national group, an international group or a social movement? For example, sites of importance to the Women’s Liberation Movement.


Listed buildings, scheduled monuments, registered parks & gardens

The best place to start is with Historic England’s search facility. This is free to use and allows you to search by postcode, property name or by using their interactive map. Click the button below to access it.

However, Historic England’s search facility only identifies certain statutory heritage assets including listed buildings, scheduled monuments and registered parks and gardens.

Conservation areas, locally listed buildings

To find out more about other heritage assets, including conservation areas and locally listed buildings, you’ll need to either contact your local council or search their website. Many local councils will publish maps of conservation areas on the planning pages of their website. You may also find conservation area appraisals online. These typically identify positive, neutral and negative features of the conservation area so homeowners and developers can better understand the sorts of changes that are likely to be appropriate.

If you’re in a conservation area, it’s also a very good idea to check whether there are any Article 4 directions in place. These are introduced by local councils to provide additional control over development where this is required to preserve the special character of the area. For example, an Article 4 direction may provide additional restrictions on changes to windows or boundary treatments (walls, fences etc.). Click the button below to find out more about Article 4 directions.

Some local councils will keep an online list of non-designated heritage assets, often known as the “local list”. Non-designated heritage assets might also be identified in a conservation area appraisal. Local lists are never exhaustive and local councils are entitled to identify non-designated heritage assets in response to planning applications.


Heritage assets are valuable and irreplaceable. Our country’s heritage is one of its most unique and precious qualities and has worldwide significance. In spite of their current state of ownership, heritage assets are also considered to “belong” to the general public and to have significant community value.

Listed building consent

Many of this country’s heritage assets have global significance. They contribute greatly to our culture, our sense of community and our economy.

Preserving these assets is in the public interest.

The law seeks to prevent harm to heritage assets

For these reasons, heritage assets are protected by law and also by a wide range of national and local planning policies. The primary goal of these policies is to “conserve or enhance” those features or qualities of a heritage asset that make it special. In this context, “conserve” is generally understood to mean an absence of harm.

If your development would affect a heritage asset, your local council is required by law to pay special regard to its preservation.

Harm to heritage assets can be justified in certain circumstances

This means development that would cause harm to a heritage asset usually requires very convincing justification. That very convincing justification might include:

  • The development is required to prevent the total loss, collapse or destruction of the asset
  • The heritage harm is outweighed by public benefits, such as:
    • affordable housing
    • green infrastructure
    • new community facilities
    • economic benefits (new jobs, industries etc.)

Harm to heritage assets is always calculated on a scale of “less than substantial” harm, through “substantial” harm to “total loss”.

The greater the level of harm and the greater the value of the heritage asset, the more convincing will need to be the justification. If you are not able to convince your local council that the level of harm caused to a heritage asset is justified by other considerations, it is very likely that planning permission – and, as the case may be, listed building consent – will be refused.

how is harm caused to heritage assets?

1. Physical changes to the asset

Physical changes to the historic fabric of a heritage asset provide the most obvious potential for harm.

minor alterations to listed buildings

Depending on the particular significance of the asset, even very minor physical changes could be considered to cause unacceptable harm. This might include, for example, modest alterations to windows such as thicker glazing bars. It can also include modest internal refurbishments such as new architraves or skirting boards.

Image by graystudiopro1 on Freepik

2. Changes to the setting & non-visual harm

Harm can arise from physical changes to the heritage asset itself but it can also arise from changes within its setting. In addition, harm is not only visual. In fact, it can be caused by changes that affect the way a place “feels”. That could include developments that introduce new noises, smells or activities to a historic area.

important heritage asset

Imagine, for example, how the creation of a large shopping centre in the vicinity of Stonehenge would affect the “feel” of this tranquil heritage site even if it could not be seen from the monument.

Similarly, the change of use of important social and civic buildings – e.g. pubs, churches and town halls – to private housing is often resisted because the specific, social uses of these types of assets are a key part of their heritage interest.


A Heritage Impact Assessment is required for any planning application that would directly affect a designated heritage asset or its setting. A Heritage Impact Assessment may also be requested if the development has the potential to affect a non-designated asset.

However, the setting of a heritage asset is not fixed. This means even more distant developments could have the potential to affect a heritage setting. For example, some taller buildings may affect important, long-distance views to or from a historic landmark.

A Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) is also required for all listed building consent applications. Click the button below to find out more about applying for listed building consent.

What sort of applications would directly affect a heritage asset or its setting?

As for most heritage matters, there is no strict rule about what developments would affect a heritage asset. Instead, every development will be considered on its own merits. This makes sense because the special value of any particular heritage asset will be unique. That means certain changes might cause substantial harm to one specific heritage asset whereas the same changes would cause no harm at all to a different heritage asset.

Generally speaking, however, the following types of developments are likely to directly affect a heritage asset or its setting:

  • External and internal changes to the built fabric of a listed building, even minor
  • New buildings and alterations to buildings located within the grounds of a listed building
  • External changes to a site or building in a Conservation Area, including changes to front gardens and property boundaries
  • External changes to a site or building located adjacent to or within view of a listed building or Conservation Area
  • Change of use of a listed building or a site within a Conservation Area, even with no physical changes.


As a minimum, a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) must:

  • Consult the historic record
  • Describe the significance of the affected heritage asset(s), including any contribution made by their setting
  • Evaluate the effect of the development on this significance
  • Describe the overall level of harm or benefit to the heritage asset, taking account of any mitigation measures or public benefits.

Importantly, however, Heritage Impact Assessments should be “proportionate” to the development and its impact. For example, if your development is a new swimming pool within the grounds of a listed building, it’s unlikely you’ll need to provide much detail about the historic timbers in the building as these wouldn’t be affected at all.

Planning Direct offers affordable Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) for most types of heritage-related developments. All our HIAs are bespoke and written to comply with both national and local requirements. They include consultation of the historic record and, where required, a site visit with photographic record. We will also identify for you any changes to the development that are required or advisable in order to improve the impact on the historic environment and, accordingly, your chances of success.

We are very proud of the quality of our heritage work and will gladly send redacted examples on request.

Contact us today for assistance with your heritage project. Our prices are competitive and our initial advice is always free.


Planning Direct offers more than just Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs).

Design guidance

We also provide a design guidance service which is especially valuable when considering new development within the historic environment. We’ll consult the historic record and thoroughly investigate both the planning history of the site and heritage policies for the area. The intention of our design guidance is to provide detailed advice concerning the form, layout, style, amount and materials (etc.) that your development should ideally adopt to maximise the chances of a successful planning application and, as the case may be, listed building consent application. Click the button below to find out more about our design guidance service.

Our design guidance service is comprehensive and has been used by award-winning heritage architects in the past.


Planning Direct is able to provide comprehensive planning drawings for less complex heritage projects, including new dwellings in conservation areas or in the setting of listed buildings. This includes detail drawings for minor internal alterations, e.g. new floor coverings.

If you require a specialist approach, we also work alongside a number of well-reputed heritage architects and can commission drawings on your behalf. Click the button below to find out more about some of our key partners.

Planning applications & listed building consent applications

We offer comprehensive, “start-to-finish” planning application and listed building consent application services. This means we provide all of the following:

  • Initial design guidance
  • A comprehensive set of planning drawings
  • Written statements, including (as required) a planning statement, design & access statement and Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA)
  • External commissions. If any additional reports are required that we do not provide in house, we can identify and commission these on your behalf
  • Case management to include submission of your application and liaison with your local council and other interested parties until a decision is reached
  • Advice post-permission. No matter the outcome, we will always take the time to explain the decision to you and provide our best advice on moving forward.

All our services and fees are bespoke. That means if you only require some of the items listed above, we will amend our fees accordingly.


We are able to assist with almost all types of heritage planning appeals, such as:

  • Appeals against a refusal of planning permission where one or more of the reasons for refusal concerns the effect of the development on a listed building, conservation area, scheduled monument or other heritage asset
  • Appeals against a refusal of listed building consent
  • Appeals against an enforcement notice that affects a listed building, conservation area or other heritage asset.

Our appeal statements are always comprehensive and we have assisted our clients to secure various planning and listed building consents on appeal, including for new dwellings, changes of use and extensive internal alterations to Grade I and Grade II* listed properties.

But don’t just take our word for it! One of our happy clients had this to say after we secured him both planning permission and listed building consent on appeal:

“I have used Planning Direct for numerous applications and general help/enquiries. I have found Nikki to be a wealth of knowledge and expertise in some complex areas of listed building matters and various policy regulations etc.”

Please get in touch if you require assistance with a heritage project. Our initial advice is free of charge.

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