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English Heritage has published a guidance paper on the setting of heritage assets. Broadly, it is about what should be done when development is likely to affect the view of and from monuments. As they say….

The significance of a heritage asset derives not only from its physical presence and historic fabric but also from its setting – the surroundings in which it is experienced. The careful management of change within the surroundings of heritage assets therefore makes an important contribution to the quality of the places in which we live.”

For those of us that are interested in prehistoric sites there is a passage that is particularly pleasing:

“Some views may contribute more to understanding the significance of a heritage asset than others. This may be because the relationships between the asset and other historic assets or places or natural features are particularly relevant; because of the historical associations of a particular view or viewing point; or because the composition within the view was a fundamental aspect of the design of the heritage asset. Intentional inter-visibility between heritage assets, or between heritage assets and natural features, can make a particularly important contribution to significance. Some assets, whether contemporaneous or otherwise, were intended to be seen from one another for aesthetic, functional, ceremonial or religious reasons. These include military and defensive sites; telegraphs or beacons; and prehistoric funerary and ceremonial sites.”

Intentional inter-visibility between heritage assets and/or natural features is certainly something that needs recognising and protecting so it’s good to see them saying so in such a clear way. Indeed, they’ve said it before – for example  earlier this year in relation to a windfarm development in the Vale of Pickering:

We consider the proposed wind farm would alter the way the landscape is experienced and read and the setting of numerous heritage assets would be harmed.” 

Let’s hope the concept that prehistoric sites can sometimes be seen as a part of an intentional landscape can often win the day against the coming Government pressure to tip the balance more in favour of development and less in favour of protection.

“Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence. Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance. Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence. Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance" - Yoko Ono


November 2011

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