Theatres Trust statement on Culture in the National Planning Policy Framework
27th March 2012
The Government has published its long awaited final National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). In its draft consultation document, culture, the arts and theatre were absent. This would have left theatres and other cultural institutions vulnerable to the NPPF’s over-riding principle of ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’, particularly where local authorities did not have their Local Plans in place.
Mhora Samuel, Director, The Theatres Trust said, “Today we celebrate a national planning policy that not only recognises culture, it also creates specific policies that both plan positively for cultural facilities and guard against their loss.”
The published NPPF takes on board recommendations from the CLG Select Committee which included oral evidence from The Theatres Trust and representations from across the theatre and arts community.
The Theatres Trust is delighted to see the following policies in the NPPF:
- The ambition of the NPPF to achieve sustainable development recognises the need for the planning system to perform a social role and reflect a community’s needs and support its cultural well-being.
- The NPPF also recognises as a Core Planning Principle the need to take account of and support local strategies to improve cultural well-being for all, and deliver sufficient cultural facilities to meet local needs.
- It guides local authorities to draw up Local Plans which allocate a range of suitable sites to meet the scale and type of cultural development in town centres and goes on to define main town centre uses as arts, culture and tourism, including theatres, museums, galleries and concert halls.
- In order to promote a strong rural economy, it states that local and neighbourhood plans should promote the retention and development of cultural buildings.
- In promoting healthy communities planning policies and decisions should plan positively for cultural buildings and guard against the loss of valued facilities and services.
- And in conserving and enhancing the historic environment local planning authorities will need to take into account the cultural benefits that conservation of the historic environment can bring.
These policies give clarity to local planning authorities and to neighbourhood plan makers. The NPPF’s guidance on Local Plans development specifically states that they should include strategic policies to deliver the provision of cultural infrastructure.
As a statutory consultee on theatres for Planning Applications, Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders we look forward to playing a pro-active role at both pre-application stages and throughout the planning process.
Today’s publication of the NPPF is just the start. It is welcomed by The Theatres Trust. We are pleased that the Government has listened and taken on board the cultural sector’s concerns. Through this process we have realised that there is a real need for the arts and culture to have a voice in the planning system and there is still much to do if we are to develop the profile of theatres, the arts and culture in the planning system.
In response The Theatres Trust has come together with 19 arts and cultural organisations who jointly campaigned to see culture included in the NPPF to establish the Culture in Planning Alliance (CiPA).
CiPA will be a voice for culture and the arts in the planning system.
The new group includes planning statutory consultee The Theatres Trust, ixia public art think tank, the National Federation of Artist Studio Providers, Arts Development UK, Voluntary Arts, theatre bodies Society of London Theatre (SOLT), Theatrical Management Association and the Little Theatre Guild (LTG), and Audiences UK.
CiPA will harness existing cultural planning expertise on theatres, concert halls, art galleries, museums, libraries, public art initiatives, craft venues and artists’ studios to promote the role of culture and the arts in the planning system, share expertise and produce expert guidance on culture and the arts in planning.
For more information contact Mhora Samuel T 020 7836 8591
1. The Theatres Trust
The Theatres Trust is The National Advisory Public Body for theatres. The Trust was established by The Theatres Trust Act 1976 ‘to promote the better protection of theatres’. We are a statutory consultee on theatre buildings in the planning system, we provide expert advice on the sustainable development of theatre buildings, and we help promote awareness and solutions for theatres at risk. We champion all theatres, historic, contemporary and new, in theatre use, in other uses or disused. Our central London Theatreland-based Resource Centre provides access to a specialist theatre building Reference Library including books and architectural plans. For more information: www.theatrestrust.org.uk
2. References to Culture in the NPPF
Achieving sustainable development:
7. Bullet 2: a social role – supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities, by providing the supply of housing required to meet the needs of present and future generations; and by creating a high quality built environment, with accessible local services that reflect the community’s needs and support its health, social and cultural well-being;
Core planning principles:
Bullet 12: take account of and support local strategies to improve health, social and cultural wellbeing for all, and deliver sufficient community and cultural facilities and services to meet local needs.
Delivering sustainable development
2. Ensuring the vitality of town centres:
23. Planning policies should be positive, promote competitive town centre environments and set out policies for the management and growth of centres over the plan period. In drawing up Local Plans, local planning authorities should:
Bullet 6: allocate a range of suitable sites to meet the scale and type of retail, leisure, commercial, office, tourism, cultural, community and residential development needed in town centres. It is important that needs for retail, leisure, office and other main town centre uses are met in full and are not compromised by limited site availability. Local planning authorities should therefore undertake an assessment of the need to expand town centres to ensure a sufficient supply of suitable sites.
3. Supporting a prosperous rural economy:
28. Planning policies should support economic growth in rural areas in order to create jobs and prosperity by taking a positive approach to sustainable new development. To promote a strong rural economy, local and neighbourhood plans should:
Bullet 4: promote the retention and development of local services and community facilities in villages, such as local shops, meeting places, sports venues, cultural buildings, public houses and places of worship.
8. Promoting healthy communities:
70. To deliver the social, recreational and cultural facilities and services the community needs, planning policies and decisions should:
Bullet 1: plan positively for the provision and use of shared space, community facilities (such as local shops, meeting places, sports venues, cultural buildings, public houses and places of worship) and other local services to enhance the sustainability of communities and residential environments;
Bullet 2: guard against the unnecessary loss of valued facilities and services, particularly where this would reduce the community’s ability to meet its day-to-day needs.
12. Conserving and enhancing the historic environment:
126. Local planning authorities should set out in their Local Plan a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment, including heritage assets most at risk through neglect, decay or other threats. In doing so, they should recognise that heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource and conserve them in a manner appropriate to their significance. In developing this strategy, local planning authorities should take into account:
Bullet 2: the wider social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits that conservation of the historic environment can bring.
156. Local planning authorities should set out the strategic priorities for the area in the Local Plan. This should include strategic policies to deliver:
Bullet 4: the provision of health, security, community and cultural infrastructure and other local facilities.
Annex 2: Glossary
Main town centre uses: Retail development (including warehouse clubs and factory outlet centres); leisure, entertainment facilities the more intensive sport and recreation uses (including cinemas, restaurants, drive-through restaurants, bars and pubs, night-clubs, casinos, health and fitness centres, indoor bowling centres, and bingo halls); offices; and arts, culture and tourism development (including theatres, museums, galleries and concert halls, hotels and conference facilities).
Significance (for heritage policy): The value of a heritage asset to this and future generations because of its heritage interest. That interest may be archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic. Significance derives not only from a heritage asset’s physical presence, but also from its setting.
3. Culture in Planning Alliance
The Theatres Trust has come together with 19 arts and cultural organisations who jointly campaigned to see culture included in the National Planning Policy Framework to establish the Culture in Planning Alliance.
CiPA will be a voice for culture and the arts in the planning system. CiPA will harness existing cultural planning expertise on theatres, concert halls, art galleries, museums, libraries, public art initiatives, craft venues and artists’ studios to promote the role of culture and the arts in the planning system, share expertise and produce expert guidance on culture and the arts in planning.
Membership of the Culture in Planning Alliance is open to arts and cultural organisations who wish to see their interests better represented in the planning system.
Founder members include: The Theatres Trust, ixia public art think tank, National Federation of Artists’ Studio Providers, Arts Development UK, Voluntary Arts, ABTT, SOLT, TMA, Independent Theatre Council (ITC), Little Theatre Guild (LTG), Dance UK, Association of British Orchestras, Making Music, Visual Arts and Galleries Association (VAGA), National Campaign for the Arts, Crafts Council, Axis, Contemporary Art Society, a-n The Artists Information Company and Audiences UK.
CiPA will make a statement on the NPPF in due course. For more information on CiPA contact firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Background to the campaign for culture in the NPPF
In August 2011 we publicly raised the alert that culture was not included in the NPPF – there were references to leisure and recreation and community facilities, but no mention of theatres, the arts or culture – neither implicitly or explicitly. Given the success of projects to stimulate economic regeneration though culture and the importance of arts and culture to the vitality of town centres this was a serious omission. Our fear was that it would open the gate to the loss of theatres and arts facilities to development able to argue that provision for cultural facilities was not a material consideration as these were not referred to in the NPPF.
In September 2011 we published a paper on the key issues for culture in the NPPF with the support of Professor Martin Elson and the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire Quality Place Delivery Panel.
And in response the arts, cultural and planning sectors came together to raise their concerns, publishing a joint letter in the Telegraph in October, lobbying MPs, and contributing to the consultation.
As well as responding the draft NPPF consultation The Theatres Trust also submitted evidence to the CLG Select Committee at the beginning of September 2011 and was invited to speak at its evidence session on the 24 October 2011. The Localism Act was granted Royal Assent on the 15 November 2011. A key addition to the Act through an amendment in the Lords put forward by Baroness Hanham was the reference to assets of community value furthering the social wellbeing and interests of communities. Crucially the definition of social interests included in particular cultural interests.
We were delighted in December 2011 when the CLG Select Committee’s report specifically recommended that the NPPF should include the arts, culture and tourism uses in the Town Centre First Policy and stated that it saw ‘a compelling case for the definition of sustainable development to include a cultural dimension as part of the social pillar of the definition of sustainable development’.
At the time, Director of The Theatres Trust, Mhora Samuel said, “This is very encouraging. We were extremely concerned about the lack of any references to culture and the arts in the draft NPPF. The Select Committee’s report is a huge endorsement for culture and the arts and the role they play in achieving balanced sustainable development.”
Concern was again picked up by The Telegraph on Boxing Day when it published an article ‘Theatres under threat from new planning laws’. Then on 24 January 2012 in the House of Lords Baroness Bakewell asked what safeguards were contained in the NPPF to protect cultural institutions. In response Baroness Hanham stated “under the draft NPPF, cultural interests have been included under community facilities, rather than under a specific heading of “cultural institutions”. If that needs reinterpreting, it will come about as a result of the consultation on the national policy planning framework that has taken place over the past three months.” The Earl of Clancarty also asked about the Select Committee’s recommendation to adopt a more inclusive definition of sustainable development which recognised the contribution of culture.