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Policy HC1 Heritage conservation and growth


  1. Boroughs should, in consultation with Historic England and other relevant statutory organisations, develop evidence that demonstrates a clear understanding of London’s historic environment. This evidence should be used for identifying, understanding, conserving, and enhancing the historic environment and heritage assets, and improving access to the heritage assets, landscapes and archaeology within their area.
  2. Development Plans and strategies should demonstrate a clear understanding of the historic environment and the heritage values of sites or areas and their relationship with their surroundings. This knowledge should be used to inform the effective integration of London’s heritage in regenerative change by:
    1. setting out a clear vision that recognises and embeds the role of heritage in place-making
    2. utilising the heritage significance of a site or area in the planning and design process
    3. integrating the conservation and enhancement of heritage assets and their settings with innovative and creative contextual architectural responses that contribute to their significance and sense of place
    4. delivering positive benefits that sustain and enhance the historic environment, as well as contributing to the economic viability, accessibility and environmental quality of a place, and to social wellbeing.
  3. Development proposals affecting heritage assets, and their settings, should conserve their significance, by being sympathetic to the assets’ significance and appreciation within their surroundings. The cumulative impacts of incremental change from development on heritage assets and their settings, should also be actively managed. Development proposals should seek to avoid harm and identify enhancement opportunities by integrating heritage considerations early on in the design process.
  4. Development proposals should identify assets of archaeological significance and use this information to avoid harm or minimise it through design and appropriate mitigation. Where applicable, development should make provision for the protection of significant archaeological assets and landscapes. The protection of undesignated heritage assets of archaeological interest equivalent to a scheduled monument should be given equivalent weight to designated heritage assets.
  5. Where heritage assets have been identified as being At Risk, boroughs should identify specific opportunities for them to contribute to regeneration and place-making, and they should set out strategies for their repair and re-use.

London’s historic environment, represented in its built form, landscape heritage and archaeology, provides a depth of character that benefits the city’s economy, culture and quality of life. The built environment, combined with its historic landscapes, provides a unique sense of place, whilst layers of architectural history provide an environment that is of local, national and international value. London’s heritage assets and historic environment are irreplaceable and an essential part of what makes London a vibrant and successful city, and their effective management is a fundamental component of achieving good growth.

London’s diverse range of designated and non-designated heritage assets contributes to its status as a world-class city. Designated assets currently include four World Heritage Sites, over 1,000 conservation areas, 19,000 list entries for historic buildings, 150 registered parks and gardens, 160 scheduled monuments, and one battlefield. Non-designated assets cover an even wider range of features including buildings of local interest, most archaeological remains, canals, docks and waterways, historic hedgerows and ancient woodlands. The distribution of designated assets differs across different parts of London, and is shown in Figure 7.1, Figure 7.2, Figure 7.3, Figure 7.4 and Figure 7.5. Note that these maps are for illustrative purposes only.

Ensuring the identification and sensitive management of London’s heritage assets in tandem with promotion of the highest standards of modern architecture will be essential to maintaining the blend of old and new that gives the capital its unique character. London’s heritage reflects the city’s diversity, its people and their impact on its structure. When assessing the significance of heritage assets, it is important to appreciate the influence of past human cultural activity from all sections of London’s diverse community. Every opportunity to bring the story of London to people and improve the accessibility and maintenance of London’s heritage should be exploited. Supporting infrastructure and visitor facilities may be required to improve access and enhance appreciation of London’s heritage assets.

Many heritage assets make a significant contribution to local character which should be sustained and enhanced. The Greater London Historic Environment Record (GLHER)[98] is a comprehensive and dynamic resource for the historic environment of London containing over 196,000 entries. In addition to utilising this record, boroughs’ character appraisals, conservation plans and local lists should be used as a reference point for plan-making and when informing development proposals.

[98] The GLHER is a public record managed by Historic England and can be accessed by visiting the GLHER office and through remote searches that involve the supply of digital GLHER data. More information can be found at:

Development Plans and strategies should demonstrate a clear understanding of the heritage values of a site or area and its relationship with its surroundings. Through proactive management from the start of the development process, planners and developers should engage and collaborate with stakeholders so that the capital’s heritage contributes positively to its future. To ensure a full and detailed understanding of the local historic environment, stakeholders should include Historic England, boroughs, heritage specialists, as well as local communities.

Historically, London has demonstrated an ability to regenerate itself, which has added to the city’s distinctiveness and diversity of inter-connected places. Today urban renewal in London offers opportunities for the creative re-use of heritage assets and the historic environment as well as the enhancement, repair and beneficial re-use of heritage assets that are on the At Risk Register[99]. In some areas, this might be achieved by reflecting existing or original street patterns and blocks; in others, it will be expressed by retaining and reusing buildings, spaces and features that play an important role in the local character of an area. Figure 7.4 illustrates the broad characteristics of London as derived from its historical development, which can be used to inform evidence bases for area-based strategies.

[99] The Heritage at Risk Register is produced annually as part of Historic England's Heritage at Risk programme. The Register includes buildings or structures, places of worship, archaeological sites, battlefields, wrecks, parks and gardens, and conservation area known to be at risk as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development. Further information can be found at:

Heritage significance can be represented in an asset’s form, scale, materials and architectural detail and, where relevant, the historic relationships between heritage assets. Development that affects the settings of heritage assets should respond positively to the assets’ significance, local context and character to protect the contribution that settings make to the assets’ significance. In particular, consideration will need to be given to impacts from development that is not sympathetic in terms of scale, materials, details and form.

Where there is evidence of deliberate neglect of and/or damage to a heritage asset to help justify a development proposal, the deteriorated state of that asset will be disregarded when making a decision on a development proposal.

Understanding of London’s archaeology is continuously developing with much of it yet to be fully identified and interpreted. To help identify sites of archaeological interest, boroughs are expected to develop up-to-date Archaeological Priority Areas for plan-making and decision-taking. Up-to-date Archaeological Priority Areas (APAs) are classified using a tier system recognising their different degrees of archaeological significance and potential as presently understood. Tier 1 APAs help to identify where undesignated archaeological assets of equivalent significance to a scheduled monument - and which are subject to the same policies as designated assets - are known or likely to be present.

Across London, Local Plans identify areas that have known archaeological interest or potential. The whole of the City of London has high archaeological sensitivity whilst elsewhere the Greater London Archaeological Priority Area Review Programme is updating these areas using new consistent London-wide criteria (see Figure 7.5). Each new APA is assigned to a tier:

  • Tier 1 is a defined area which is known, or strongly suspected, to contain a heritage asset of national significance, or which is otherwise of very high archaeological sensitivity.
  • Tier 2 is a local area with specific evidence indicating the presence, or likely presence, of heritage assets of archaeological interest.
  • Tier 3 is a landscape-scale zone within which there is evidence indicating the potential for heritage assets of archaeological interest to be discovered.
  • Tier 4 (outside APA) covers any location that does not, on present evidence, merit inclusion within an Archaeological Priority Area.
  • Other APAs which have not yet been reviewed are not assigned to a tier.

Developments will be expected to avoid or minimise harm to significant archaeological assets. In some cases, remains can be incorporated into and/or interpreted in new development. The physical assets should, where possible, be made available to the public on-site and opportunities taken to actively present the site’s archaeology. Where the archaeological asset cannot be preserved or managed on-site, appropriate provision must be made for the investigation, understanding, recording, dissemination and archiving of that asset, and must be undertaken by suitably-qualified individuals or organisations.