Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism
The Historic Environment (Wales) Bill has been introduced into the National Assembly for Wales today.
Our country is blessed with a rich historic environment that encompasses archaeological sites, monuments and historic buildings, as well as the landscapes and townscapes in which they are found. It has shaped our national identity and contributes to local distinctiveness and community pride. It also brings significant economic, social and environmental benefits to the people of Wales. It is vital, therefore, that we have clear, effective and flexible systems to protect and sustain the historic environment.
The Historic Environment (Wales) Bill is about protecting and managing the Welsh historic environment so present and future generations can continue to enjoy its benefits, appreciate it and learn from it.
Although the current structures to safeguard the Welsh historic environment are fundamentally sound, the wide-ranging stakeholder engagement and public consultation that informed the development of the Billidentifieda number of areas where legislative changes are needed to enhance protection and improve management. The Bill will make important amendments to the existing legislation on scheduled monuments and listed buildings and introduce some stand-alone provisions for the historic environment more generally.
For scheduledmonuments,the Bill will seek to give protection to the full range of nationally important archaeological sites in Wales and to create new measures that will allow the Welsh Government to take prompt and effective action to prevent damage to scheduled monuments. Other proposals aim to make it easier to take action against those who have damaged or destroyed monuments.
For listed buildings, the Bill will seek to enable authorities to act quickly if a building is under threat from unauthorised works and give them greater flexibility in dealing with historic buildings that are suffering from neglect.
Owners or developers who are considering sustainable new uses for unlisted historic buildings will benefit from the Bill’s proposals to relax the conditions for applications for certificates of immunity from listing.
Some of the Bill’s provisions apply to both scheduled monuments and listed buildings.The proposal to establish heritage partnership agreements in Wales will allow owners of historic assets to enter into voluntary management plans with consenting authorities that will lighten administrative burdens for all involved and encourage a more consistent and coherent approach to the management of the buildings or monuments.
The existing structures for the designation of nationally important historic assets will be made more open and transparent by the proposed introduction of formal consultation with owners and the creation of mechanisms for the review of decisions.
The sustainable management of the entire historic environment will be improved by the proposal to place Wales’ historic environment records, which provide detailed information and advice on the historic environment to local planning authorities and the public, on a more stable footing.
The Bill will create a statutory register of Wales’ historic parks and gardens which will aid the informed conservation of the registered sites by owners, local planning authorities, statutory bodies and all others concerned with them.
Finally the Bill will include provision for an independent panel to advise on historic environment policy and strategy at a national level in Wales.
This Bill marks an important step forward for Wales since it represents the first legislation ever drafted specifically for the Welsh historic environment. However, there are many important improvements to the protection and management of the historic environment that cannot be delivered through legislation alone. During the engagement and consultation that preceded the Bill, there was widespread agreement that updated policy, advice and guidance on thehistoric environmentwould also be vital.
The Historic Environment (Wales) Bill therefore has been developed to form the corefor a suite of legislation, policy, advice and guidance that will give Wales the historic environment management systems that it needs to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. A programme of publications has been planned to complement the legislation and today I have published thefirst tranche of those draft documents on the Cadw website:
- a revised chapter 6, ‘The Historic Environment’, of Planning Policy Wales;
- Technical Advice Note 24: Historic Environment (new planning advice);
- Managing Change to Listed Buildings in Wales;
- Managing Change in World Heritage Sites in Wales;
- Managing Lists of Historic Assets of Special Local Interest in Wales; and
- Managing Historic Environment Records in Wales (statutory guidance under the provisions of the Bill).
By making these documents available nowin draft form, I hope to help Assembly Members to see the Bill as the central element of an integrated package of measures to improve the sustainable management of the Welsh historic environment. Formal public consultation on these documents will follow once the provisions of the Bill have been finalised.
Through the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill and associated measures, the Welsh Government is taking the necessary steps to safeguard Wales’ unique historic environment for future generations and to promote its sustainable management so it can continue to contribute to the well-being of our citizens.