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Significance of heritage assets

What are heritage assets?

The National Planning Policy Framework defines a heritage asset as a building, monument, site, place, area or landscape which has a degree of significance. In Darlington Borough this comprises:

Further information

National Planning Policy Framework [external link, PDF]

What is heritage significance?

The significance of heritage asset is the sum of all the values (or interests) that it has. Heritage assets that are scheduled or grade-I or grade-II*-listed have very high significance, as reflected in their designation.

English Heritage sets out the following heritage values:

  • Evidential value: physical evidence about past human activity (e.g. datable features, planform, changes in walling)
  • Historical value: the ways in which past people, events and aspects of life can be connected to the present - this tends to be illustrative or associative (e.g. information that be retrieved from archives, old maps, old photos, etc.)
  • Aesthetic value: the ways in which people draw sensory or intellectual stimulation from a heritage asset (note that this can be subjective to some extent)
  • Communal value: the meanings of a heritage asset for the people who relate to it (again, this can be subjective)

Please note that certain elements of a heritage assets can have more than one value. For example, whilst the existing layout of a building has evidential value, it can also have historical value by association with former uses that can be derived from it.

How is heritage significance assessed?

Significance is assessed by identifying, analysing and evaluating the values or interests that a heritage asset has. Please note that such assessment needs to be carried out by a person who has specialist knowledge in the asset type in question and its location, as well as analytical skills.

The assessment of heritage significance is generally carried out by first visiting the site and carrying out research about the asset. Potential sources for research include:

  • Archives
  • Conservation area appraisals (see our ‘Conservation Areas’ section)
  • Designation records: The National Heritage List for England 
  • Durham County Council Historic Environment Record 
  • Local history groups
  • Old maps
  • Old photos

Having gathered all the information available, a document called a heritage statement is then compiled which describes, analyses and interprets the asset.

When is an assessment required?

Heritage statements are required in the planning process. They should inform the impact the proposed works would have on designated heritage assets. Heritage statements are sometimes also required for applications regarding non-designated heritage assets. The National Planning Policy Framework states that the level of detail [provided in a heritage statement] should be proportionate to the assets’ importance and no more than is sufficient to understand the potential impact of the proposal on their significance. Durham County Council's Historic Environment Record, which includes Darlington Borough, must always be consulted.

Heritage statements are also required when grant funding for works to heritage assets is sought.

Further information

Durham County Council – Historic Environment Record [external link]

National Planning Policy Framework [external link, PDF]

This page was last updated in January 2024.

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