A new approach to managing the historic environment


Barbara Cummins, director of heritage at Historic Environment Scotland, discusses the new planning policy for Scotland

On 5 April, we launched our new Historic Environment Policy for Scotland (HEPS), which replaces the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement (HESPS). This new planning policy and associated policy and guidance will be formally adopted on 1 May 2019.

As the lead public body for the historic environment in Scotland, we have a responsibility to set the agenda for promoting good management of Scotland’s heritage. Through Historic Environment Policy for Scotland, we have set out accessible, concise and clear principles of how the historic environment should be managed and looked after, and what our role looks like within the planning system.

A new approach to policy

As a new organisation, we realised we had an opportunity to review how we undertake our regulatory activities and so decided to take a unique approach to how we develop this new policy.

In 2016, we launched our What’s Your Heritage? campaign. This was our first informal exchange of ideas with the people of Scotland about heritage and the feedback we received was used to directly drive policy change.

We wanted to show the public and the sector that we are open to new ways of working, and this campaign helped us establish a compelling narrative about what people and communities across Scotland, and stakeholders in the heritage sector, thought we should be doing to support the recognition and management of our historic environment.

As part of What’s Your Heritage?, we asked people which places and buildings are important to them; what makes them feel proud; and what has special meaning for their community. As well as this, we asked which of Scotland’s places, buildings and monuments should be designated, valued, acknowledged and created.

We received an overwhelming 2,000 responses and the feedback we received demonstrated that there is widespread support for recognising special buildings and places but that the processes around it, such as listing and scheduling, are seen as obscure and inaccessible. Our aim was to change this perception. The historic environment is something we inherit – we all have a responsibility to look after it for the next generation to enjoy, and we want communities to feel informed, empowered and included in decision-making.

Following the What’s Your Heritage? campaign, we consulted with colleagues and the sector to shape the new policy. HEPS is for the whole of the historic environment and is for everyone with a role or interest in its management and decision-making.

What’s new?

HEPS is a strategic policy document that sets out accessible, concise and clear principles of how the historic environment should be managed and looked after. It is underpinned by new policy and guidance including Designation Policy and Selection Guidance and Scheduled Monument Consents Policy and should be used by everyone with a role or interest in the management of the historic environment in Scotland.

During the consultation process, the feedback we received was that people wanted a different type of policy document to represent HES’ role as a new organisation and make it clear what our role is in the decision-making process.

Our role in the planning system is to provide advice on the potential impact of development on the historic environment. We work in an advisory capacity; however, we have statutory functions within the planning system as part of our wide range of responsibilities for the historic environment. We have identified challenges and opportunities that are essential to consider when thinking about how the historic environment should be managed, and ensure policy can respond to change.

The historic environment is a fragile and irreplaceable resource but also a dynamic one, and we are committed to preserving its most significant features.

This new policy is designed to support and enable good decision-making about changes to the historic environment. It takes into account all aspects of the historic environment and the different ways people value it and sets out a series of principles and policies for the recognition, care and sustainable management of it.

What does this mean for you?

From 1 May, HEPS will be used in our decision-making and the advice we give to others and should be used by all decision-makers for the historic environment in Scotland.

HEPS should be taken into account whenever a decision will affect the historic environment. This includes in plans and policies that deal with funding decisions or estate management, as well as other topics from agriculture to energy.

HEPS is also a material consideration for planning policy proposals that might affect the historic environment and in relation to listed building consent and scheduled monument consent. Its status is unchanged from that of its predecessors and information that was contained in HESPS can now be found in the supporting policies and Managing Change Guidance we have published alongside HEPS.

HEPS forms a context for all decision-makers when they are thinking about the historic environment including climate change, sustainable tourism, societal change and land management to name but a few. Collectively, we all have a duty of care for our historic environment. HEPS outlines how we should undertake this duty whenever a decision in the planning system will affect the historic environment and encourages consistent and integrated management and decision-making.

For further information on HEPS or to read the policy, click here.



Barbara Cummins

Director of Heritage

Historic Environment Scotland

Tel: +44 (0)131 668 8600

Twitter: @Histenvscot

LinkedIn: Historic-environment-scotland

Facebook: HistoricEnvScotland

Instagram: histenvscot


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here