Aims and provisions

Aims

The Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016 has three main aims:
- to give more effective protection to listed buildings and scheduled monuments;
- to improve the sustainable management of the historic environment; and
- to introduce greater transparency and accountability into decisions taken on the historic environment.

The Act amends the two pieces of UK legislation — the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 — that currently provide the framework for the protection and management of the Welsh historic environment. It also contains new stand-alone provisions relating to historic place names; historic environment records and the Advisory Panel for the Historic Environment in Wales.

When will the Act’s provisions come into force?

Some of the Act’s provisions came into effect on 21 May 2016, two months after Royal Assent. Three fact sheets, which can be downloaded below, have been prepared to highlight the most important changes:

Fact sheet 1 - Scheduled monuments
• Extension of the definition of a monument
• Changes to the scheduled monument consent process (certain provisions)

Fact sheet 2 - Scheduled monuments
• Temporary stop and enforcement notices for scheduled monuments
• Amendments to the criminal offences and defences for damage to scheduled monuments
• Powers of entry for the archaeological investigation of ancient monuments

Fact sheet 3 - Listed buildings
• Temporary stop notices for listed buildings
• Extending the scope of urgent works and introducing land charges (certain provisions)
• New rules for applications for certificates of immunity from listing.

Further work — either supplementary regulations or non-legislative preparations — will be needed before other provisions can be brought into force. These will be formally ‘commenced’ by order of the Welsh Ministers at the appropriate time and include:
• Statutory register for historic parks and gardens
• Extending the scope of urgent works and introducing land charges (certain provisions)
• Preservation notices
• Introduction of heritage partnership agreements
• Statutory list of historic place names
• Statutory historic environment records
• Changes to the scheduled monument consent process (certain provisions)
• Establishment of the Advisory Panel for the Welsh Historic Environment
• Reviews of decisions to designate historic assets.

Summary of the Act’s provisions

To give more effective protection to scheduled monuments and  listed buildings

Extension of the definition of a scheduled monument

The Welsh Ministers will be able to recognise and protect any nationally important sites that provide evidence of past human activity. This provision came into force on 21 May 2016. 

Amendments to the criminal offences and defences for damage to scheduled monuments
The Act will make it easier to bring cases of unlawful damage or destruction of scheduled monuments to prosecution by limiting the defence of ignorance of a monument’s status or location. The accused will have to be able to show that all reasonable steps had been taken to find out if a scheduled monument would be harmed or destroyed by their actions. These provisions came into force on 21 May 2016.

Powers of entry for the archaeological investigation of ancient monuments in danger of damage or destruction  
If an ancient monument is at immediate risk of damage or destruction, the Welsh Ministers will be able to authorise archaeological excavations without the owner’s consent. This new power, which will help to rescue valuable information about Welsh history, will only be used in exceptional cases. This provision came into force on 21 May 2016.

Introduction of enforcement and temporary stop notices for scheduled monuments
Temporary stop notices will give the Welsh Ministers powers to put an immediate halt to unauthorised works or other damage to scheduled monuments. They will be able to use complementary enforcement notices to order repairs to monuments or the fulfilment of scheduled monument consent conditions without going to court. These provisions came into force on 21 May 2016.

Temporary stop notices for listed buildings

Local planning authorities will be given the power to put an immediate halt to unauthorised works to listed buildings. A temporary stop notice will suspend specified unauthorised works for 28 days to give the authority a chance to seek an agreed solution.  This provision came into force on 21 May 2016.

Extending the scope of urgent works notices and introducing local land charges
Local planning authorities will be able to carry out urgent works on any neglected listed building provided they do not unreasonably interfere with residential use. Authorities will also be able to impose a local land charge to aid in the recovery of costs associated with urgent works. Some provisions came into force on 21 May 2016. The remainder will come into force on 31 May 2017.

Preservation notices
The Welsh Ministers will be able to issue regulations to introduce preservation notices that will allow local authorities or the Welsh Ministers to require owners to undertake specified works to listed buildings that have fallen into disrepair.

To improve the sustainable management of the historic environment

Statutory register for historic parks and gardens
The Welsh Ministers will have to compile and maintain a comprehensive register of parks and gardens of historic interest in Wales. It will help owners, local planning authorities and others to look after the sites in an informed way.

Statutory list of historic place names
The Welsh Ministers will be required to create a list of historic place names that will be publicly accessible via the historic environment records. This provision came into force on 8 May 2017.

Statutory historic environment records
The Welsh Minsters will have to compile and keep up to date a historic environment record for each local authority area in Wales. The publicly available records will give local planning authorities and other land managers the information and evidence required for informed decisions on the historic environment. The Welsh Ministers will also have to issue guidance on how certain public bodies — local authorities, National Park authorities and Natural Resources Wales — should use the historic environment records in the exercise of their functions. These provisions will come into force on 31 May 2017.

Introduction of heritage partnership agreements
Heritage partnership agreements will bring owners, consenting authorities and other interested parties together to create long-term management plans for historic assets. The plans will cover agreed programmes of works and incorporate scheduled monument and/or listed building consents. By removing the need for repeated applications for individual consents, these voluntary agreements will save time and resources for all involved.  

Amendments to the scheduled monument consent process
The scheduled monument consent process will be streamlined and updated. The changes will permit the introduction of a simplified scheduled monument consent process using modern communications for the authorisation of minor works. Some provisions came into force on 21 May 2016. The remainder will come into force on 31 May 2017.  

New rules for applications for certificates of immunity from listing
Planning permission, either granted or applied for, will no longer be a prerequisite for an application for a certificate of immunity from listing. This will encourage owners and developers to explore new uses for empty and neglected historic buildings. This provision came into force on 21 May 2016.

To introduce greater transparency and accountability into decisions taken on the historic environment

Establishment of the Advisory Panel for the Welsh Historic Environment
The statutory Advisory Panel for the Welsh Historic Environment will give the Welsh Ministers independent, expert advice on a range of matters. It will also help to develop policy and strategy for the historic environment of Wales and evaluate how it is put it into practice.

Consultation, interim protection and review of decisions to designate historic assets
Owners and others will be formally consulted when a building is being considered for listing or a monument for scheduling, making the designation process more open and easily understood. Interim protection will safeguard historic assets from damage or destruction during the consultation period. An owner or occupier will also be able to request a review of a designation decision. These provisions will come into force on 31 May 2017.

Further information

The full text of the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016 is available on the legislation.gov.uk website, where you will also find the Explanatory Notes for the legislation. Further information on the Act is available on the website of the National Assembly for Wales.