Building on Fulford battlefield

New planning proposals to threaten battlefields?

20 October 2020

New government proposals for reform of the planning system may weaken the limited protections offered to designated and undesignated battlefields.

Under the proposals, which are detailed here, three types of land would be created in the planning process:

  • Growth (Suitable for substantial development) : The Local Plan would give outline permission for development with full permission through a streamlined and faster consent route.
  • Renewal (Suitable for smaller scale development): Statutory presumption in favour of identified uses with permission required through a new consent route
  • Protected (Development restricted): Proposals subject to planning application process as now and judged against National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Decisions about the designation of land would be taken at the local plan development stage and areas designated for ‘Growth’ would have a presumption that planning permission would be granted once the local plan was agreed. 

The government is consulting on these proposals currently and citizens and organisations can respond. 

The Battlefields Trust highlighted the following concerns in response to the consultation:

  • Firstly, the consultation document talks about the new planning policy protecting historical buildings and areas, but is unclear what the latter word means in this context.  In the event these proposals are taken forward, the Trust expects to see the 47 nationally important registered battlefields included within any ‘protect’ category given their status as designated heritage assets.  This should be made clear in the legislation or associated guidance/policy.  
  • Guidance for local planning authorities on how they should assess nondesignated heritage assets for protection in the development of a local plan should also be produced so there is a consistent approach across such authorities.  In the Trust’s view this should provide for consideration of non-designated assets at levels matching or better than those currently provided by the National Planning Policy Framework.
  • Secondly, the Consultation is unclear how the setting of heritage assets will be dealt with under the new planning proposals.  For example, it is conceivable that a registered battlefield could be abutted with an area designated for Growth.  In these circumstances how will the impact of that development on the protected heritage asset be managed? The Trust would like to see further work undertaken on this aspect and clear guidance provided which ensures that heritage asset setting is protected.
  • Finally, the Trust would like to see heritage assets protected under the proposed rules to be properly safeguarded.  Under existing planning rules planning permissions granted because developments cause ‘less than substantial harm’ result in piecemeal destruction of assets such as battlefields.  If such areas are genuinely to be protected, then the Trust would like to see the tightening of restrictions on development of such sites.  

If Battlefield Trust members are similarly concerned, they may wish to make representations on the consultation, which closes at 11:45pm on 29 October 2020.  Comments can be provided online at or via email to

The Battlefields Resource Centre