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Scheduled Monuments

Setting of historic assets

In this guide

1. What is setting?

The term setting refers to the surroundings in which your scheduled monument is understood, experienced and appreciated, including present and past relationships to the surrounding landscape. The importance of setting lies in what it contributes to the significance of your scheduled monument.

Setting is primarily visual, but can also include other features like tranquillity or remoteness. Its extent is not fixed and may change as the monument and its surroundings evolve. The setting of a scheduled monument can include physical elements of its surroundings, relationships with other historic features, natural or topographic features and its wider relationship and visibility within its landscape.

Examples of setting include:

  • Bronze Age burial mounds often occur in widely spaced groups, which were placed to be visible from other mounds or groups, and they are sometimes associated with standing stones and other types of ritual monuments.
  • In the late prehistoric Iron Age, large earthwork hillforts were built in prominent positions on hilltops. Even today, thousands of years later, they can be seen to dominate their landscape, visible from miles around.
  • Military sites, such as castles, Roman fortifications or more recent World War II pill boxes, demonstrate clear tactical positions in the landscape providing them with sightlines critical to understanding their purpose.

Functional relationships for scheduled monuments can include connections between different elements of industrial sites which illustrate the processes used to locate, process and transport raw materials and finished products.

It is important to remember that setting is not restricted only to scheduled monuments with visible upstanding remains; buried sites can have settings too. A Roman villa, the remains of which are buried beneath fields, was not placed there by chance, but would have served as the centre for a Roman farm. To understand how it operated we need to consider the landscape within which it functioned, the topography of which should still be apparent today. Of particular relevance could be links with local water supplies, particularly those that were used to supply the villa’s heated bathhouse or underfloor heating.

Cadw’s Setting of Historic Assets in Wales explains more about setting and its contribution to the significance of your scheduled monument.

2. When to assess setting

It is good management practice to understand the setting of historic assets that you own or manage. The definition and analysis of the setting of a historic asset should be part of any statement of significance or conservation management plan. It is part of the baseline evidence that enables a full understanding of a historic asset and its significance. An assessment of setting is helpful whether or not a proposed change needs planning permission or other consents. Change can include repair, renewal, restoration and reconstruction, new work or alteration, and demolition.

Applicants for planning permission should provide the local planning authority with sufficient, but proportionate, information to allow the assessment of the likely impact of proposals for development on a historic asset and its setting in a nationally important ancient monument or archaeological remains (scheduled or unscheduled),

Understanding the setting of a historic asset can help you to draw up appropriate development proposals. This process can be used to identify alternative approaches and lead to improvements in the planning and design of your proposals so that they minimise harm and maximise benefit to the significance of a historic asset and its setting. This information will help the local planning authority to understand the reasons for your proposals when they are determining your planning application.

Local planning authorities must consult Cadw on development proposals which in their opinion are within the setting of a scheduled monument.  Before you submit a planning application, it is good practice to discuss your proposal with the local planning authority and, where appropriate, with Cadw. At a pre-application discussion, you can find out whether a proposed development is likely to have an impact on the significance of a historic asset and its setting, and what assessment may be necessary.

Setting is a consideration in applications for scheduled monument consents. Your assessment of setting may form part of a heritage impact statement.