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The legislative framework for the protection and management of the historic environment

The fundamental statutory framework for the protection and management of the Welsh historic environment is provided by three pieces of legislation:

  • The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979
  • The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990
  • The Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.

The Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016 made a number of important amendments to the 1979 and 1990 Acts to address the needs of the Welsh historic environment. It also introduced several stand-alone provisions for Wales.

Subordinate legislation supplements primary legislation and is often in the form of Orders or Regulations. It enables an Act to be commenced and provides the detail necessary for the implementation of an Act. It also allows that detail to be amended without the need for a new Act.

The following pages outline the relevant primary and subordinate legislation for the following elements of the Welsh historic environment:

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015

This Act will have a significant impact on the way that all public bodies will work in the future. It requires Welsh public bodies to think more about the long-term, to work better with people, communities and each other, look to prevent problems and take a more joined-up approach — helping us to create a Wales that we all want to live in, now and in the future. 

The Act defined seven well-being goals:

  • a prosperous Wales
  • a resilient Wales
  • a healthier Wales
  • a more equal Wales
  • a Wales of cohesive communities
  • a Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
  • a globally responsible Wales.

These have been supplemented with five ways of working derived from the Act’s definition of sustainable development:

  • long term
  • integration
  • prevention
  • collaboration
  • involvement.

The seven goals and five ways of working provide a clear framework for public service decision-making and should underpin everything Welsh public bodies do.

Anti-racist Wales 2030 and Public Commemoration

Anti-racist Wales Action Plan

Public Commemoration in Wales: Guidance for Public Bodies

Wales is committed to becoming an anti-racist nation by 2030 and one goal of the anti-racist Wales action plan is to deliver a balanced, authentic and decolonised account of the past.   In 2020 The Slave Trade and the British Empire: An audit of commemoration in Wales raised questions about how we define our history, what we can do about monuments that condone slavery, and how and what we should teach the next generation. There is no one size fits all solution to the challenges of a legacy of racism and under-representation in public spaces.  The Welsh Government’s guidance on Public Commemorations instead emphasises the need for public consultation in breadth and in depth to build a consensus for change, and the wide variety of possible approaches.  This guidance applies to Wales only as heritage is a devolved matter, although custodians of heritage assets around the UK may like to consult it.  The emphasis of the guidance is on anti-racism, but the approach it sets out is relevant when addressing other areas where balance in commemoration may be an issue, including Wales’s own experience of colonisation.  Implementation of the guidance will likely take very different forms from one community to the next, but across Wales there is a consistent need for honest history at sites of high public honour. 

World Heritage Sites

Wales has four World Heritage Sites:

  • The Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd
  • Blaenavon Industrial Landscape
  • Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal
  • The Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales.

No statutory controls result from World Heritage Site inscription, but if appropriate, a local planning authority should include local policies for the protection and sustainable use of a World Heritage Site in its local development plan.

Visit the Managing World Heritage Sites in Wales page for further information

Policy, advice and guidance

The legal framework for the protection and management of the Welsh historic environment is complemented by planning policy and advice and a range of guidance publications produced by Cadw. In conjunction with the development and implementation of the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016, new documents have been produced to reflect the provisions of that legislation and current conservation philosophy. They are discussed on the final page of this section.

The hierarchy chart, available below, illustrates the relationship between the fundamental primary legislation for the protection and management of the historic environment in Wales and the policy, advice and guidance that complements it.