Battlefield Planning Rules and Heritage Guidance

Registration is a process undertaken by Historic England to determine whether a battlefield is sufficiently important to warrant being included on the National Heritage List.  Separate processes exist for Scotland and Wales as planning there is a devolved matter.  In England 47 battlefields have been registered by Historic England.  A list of registered battlefields can be found by leaving only the battlefield box ticked on the advanced search function of the National Heritage List.  

Registration does not give statutory protection to battlefields, but it does make their status a material consideration when planning decisions that affect them are made.  Preservation of battlefields from development therefore relies upon the effective application of the National Planning Policy Framework.  This deals with heritage issues at paragraphs 189-208. 

It says that when developing a site, including battlefields, developers need to provide a statement of the significance of the heritage so that the planning authority can make a judgement about the harm the development will have on the heritage. 

If the harm to a registered battlefield from development is substantial then only in wholly exceptional circumstances should the development be agreed.  For development causing less than substantial harm the planning authority is required to weigh-up the public benefit of development against the harm to the heritage, determining which is the greater to decide whether to agree or refuse planning permission.  For non-designated heritage assets the scale of harm should also be considered against the benefits of development.

Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government Heritage Planning Guidance (para 18) indicates that for harm to a heritage asset to be substantial a key element of the historic interest of the heritage needs to be seriously affected.  It says that this is a high test and may not occur very often.  For battlefields no key elements have been identified by Historic England, so each planning application on a registered battlefield is judged on its merits. In addition a 2013 legal judgement in what is known as the 'Bedford Case' found that ‘substantial harm’ needed to be “something approaching demolition or destruction”.  Subsequent case law has built on this judgement to the extent that this was now the accepted definition in law

The Battlefields Resource Centre