Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill receives Royal Assent

Last week, the UK Government secured the final changes to its Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, after a marathon passage through both houses of Parliament over the past 16 months. Several heritage provisions have now become law. Of primary significance for archaeology is the provision that secures statutory status for Historic Environment Records (HER). The now Levelling-up and Regeneration Act makes it a legal requirement that local authorities maintain an HER for its area.

Article 212 of the Act describes what information an HER should store and includes requirements for the HER to be kept up to date. The Act also enables the Secretary of State to bring forward regulations that will make additional provision for how information should be stored, and on the charging of fees. There is no suggestion that because the service is now a statutory requirement that LPAs will no longer be able to charge for services.CIfA – along with ALGAO and CBA – had previously raised queries with the wording of the provision, for example in relation to which authorities are considered ‘relevant authorities’. The Government has confirmed that it is the explicit intention that the responsibility to maintain an HER will apply to all authorities which currently maintain an HER, and those with shared or outsourced services will be able to continue delivering their service in this way.

The Government has also confirmed that it will be producing regulations and guidance that will further clarify the Act’s provisions and explore any potential lack of clarity in the Act’s wordings and CIfA is looking forward to working with Government officials in the coming months to develop the regulations that will be required to underpin the provision.

This news has been strongly welcomed across the archaeology sector, and concludes a long advocacy campaign by CIfA and others to secure this ask, which was to be a core component of the 2008 Heritage Protection Bill and has been sought ever since by alternative means. Thanks must be given to Historic England, who have advised Government on the relevance of HERs to levelling-up and the establishment of a more digital planning system during the Bill's development, and to ALGAO and CBA, who have joined CIfA in advocating for the change over the past decade, and especially in the last 12 months.

The Act also introduces a range of other heritage provisions, as well as an array of changes to planning and environmental management which will impact archaeology; for example, the introduction of new National Development Managemenr Policies (NDMPs), which will be a new tier of national planning policy, and Environmental Outcome Reports (EORs), which are replacing Environment Impact Assessment (EIA). These elements of the Act will be brought into force over the coming months and years subject to the development of secondary legislation and most will be subject to futher consultation and development which CIfA will be engaging with.

Current CIfA actions:

  • In due course, CIfA will be working with officials from the Department of Levelling-up Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to draft guidance and regulations to support the Act.
  • CIfA will be monitoring Government’s implementation of the Act and contributing to further consultations, as necessary.
  • We will also be preparing to advise Government on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which will be brought forward in November. A further, more significant, NPPF update will be likely to happen next year, alongside the development of ‘National Development Management Policies’ – a new tier of planning policy brought in in the Act.

If you have any questions about this news, or if you would like to get involved with CIfA’s advocacy as an expert advisor please contact rob.lennox@archaeologists.net.