Monthly Archives: September 2014

English Heritage, Good Practice draft guide

Article 4 directives

English Heritage have recently produced new draft “Good Practice Advice” that when finalised, will become highly influential to how local planning authorities deal with proposed changes in Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings.

This month our Town Planning Advisor looks at the role of this Advice, and considers the likely impact on those wanting to install replacement double glazing?

He challenges whether the draft Advice really does what it needs to do, to take on-board the changes introduced in the National Planning Policy Framework and whether it adequately addresses new innovations in design and manufacturer of construction products, such as double glazing, to offer improved visual appearance and energy performance to meet the ‘carbon challenge’?

The changing nature and role of government guidance

The Coalition Government has introduced many changes to streamline, deregulate and reform the planning system; the single shorter National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) replaced a whole raft of government endorsed planning policy and guidance that was critical in guiding how local authorities dealt with planning applications. One of these policy documents was ‘PPS5 Planning for the Historic Environment’, which was in turn supported by a detailed ‘Historic Environment Planning Practice Guide.’

The shorter NPPF and removal of government authored detailed supporting technical advice has arguably left local planning authorities and developers a freer hand, but it has also created a vacuum of authoritative up-to-date detailed advice. This allows greater inconsistency between local authorities and some have clung onto old ‘discontinued’ guidance and attitudes this all means they become increasingly out of date with the latest innovations in new construction products and techniques.

Filling the information gap

Different specialist organisations are now producing a range of specialist advice to influence and fill this void. The advice offered by English Heritage will highly influential, but nevertheless, it does reflect a particular point of view, for example, about how a proper balance is struck between the need to protect heritage and to allow homes to be affordably adapted to meet the climate challenge. Such issues are central to the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ introduced by the NPPF. So while the new English Heritage Good Practice Advice may be presented as a replacement for the previous government Practice Guide, will it be properly balanced?  

The roles of English Heritage and local planning authorities

English Heritage has great expertise and a statutory role to promote the conservation and enjoyment of our heritage – in particular for the most important and biggest sites and buildings of interest. They conduct research, offer training and publicise their expertise but only become directly involved in the most important historic sites and buildings. Local planning authorities are responsible for most Conservation Buildings and Listed Buildings – but they (and Planning Inspectors) do rely heavily on best practice advice and technical guidance produced by English Heritage.

Draft Good Practice and Technical Advice – Notes 1 to 3

English Heritage recently conducted consultation on three documents of Good Practice and Technical Advice in Planning – principally aimed at local planning authorities.

Note 2 Decision–taking in the Historic Environment’ offers advice on how planning applications are dealt with. We’re told these Notes will also be followed by further ‘Technical Guidance’ on a range of topics outlined in the English Heritage’s published work programme – the National Heritage Protection Plan. It is anticipated that these will be finalised and published in the Autumn at the same time the joint government / English Heritage prepared Practice Guide is withdrawn.

My response made to the consultation documents

As an independent Charter Town Planner working in the field, I responded to the documents with a number of concerns Overall I was concerned that some important matters appear to have been missed, and at points the advice appears inconsistent with the wording with that of the NPPF. In particular:

What’s missing…

Despite the title, that the Note does not address the “Management of Change” (replacing Part 6 of the previous PPS5 Practice Guide); their web site says this is to be left for future ‘Technical Guidance’. This part of the advice could include critical detail on attitudes to replacement double glazing versus, say, secondary glazing. A key issue will be whether it reflects at understanding of the latest innovations in design and slim section PVC-u frames.

The role and responsibilities of English Heritage when offering advice…

English Heritage can have an important influence on those who have not adequately moved-on their mind-set from building technologies and materials that have now been vastly  improved upon; dating back to the chunky PVC of the late 1990s/early 2000s when much local planning policy was prepared. English Heritage enjoy a privileged and responsible position and should ensure:

(a)  Their advice is consistent with the central tenant of the government’s NPPF, that all planning decisions apply the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’

(b) They keep up to date advice in step with latest innovations in construction technology and design;

(c) They help achieve a shift that both addresses the climate challenge with better energy performance and insulation in all buildings; and

(d) They engage with the construction materials industry including the manufacturers of replacement double glazing.

 a) Consistency with the NPPF?

Advice should embrace the changes introduced in the NPPF. i.e. the ‘test’ of a development proposal which impacts on heritage should be whether the impact of the proposal is ‘less than substantial harm’ or ‘substantial harm to or total loss of significance’ of the heritage asset. Advice should also more clearly reflect the NPPF Core Principle to “conserve heritage assets in a manner appropriate too their significance”.

Too many local planning authorities still apply the test of “preserve” rather than “conserve and enhance”, and with a blanket approach rather than a more graded approach reflecting the “significance” of the specific heritage asset concerned.

Routinely, local authorities are unnecessarily ‘preserving’ and resistance of minor proposals on fairly typical Conservation Area properties as if they were Listed Buildings of great ‘significance’. Similarly, the wider benefits and convenience of double glazing demanded for modern life and an aging population are down played.

The NPPF requires a balanced judgement on this wider public benefit too.

b) Up to date? 

The advice should reflect the general design advice in the NPPF that all decisions about design, including those impacting heritage assets, should “respond to” and “reflect” distinctive local characters but should not “prevent appropriate innovation”.

Appropriate innovation and performance excellence, such as that of the PVC-u slim framed double glazing is being thwarted unnecessarily by local authorities in misguide belief that ‘preservation’ is the ‘right thing’.

c) The Climate Challenge

Affordable new development standards and retrofitting of existing property is needed to support climate change mitigation, and the NPPF requirement that development “actively support energy efficiency improvement to buildings” is being overlooked too often in relation to heritage buildings.

In terms of retro-fitting and new materials and innovations, including new sash windows appropriate for heritage buildings, it is vital that English Heritage keeps up to date and encourages authorities and developers likewise.

Out of date understanding and attitudes about the long ‘lifetime’ of 100% recyclable PVC must be challenged.

d) Engaging with the industry 

Consultation process appears to repeat previous mistakes, the approach has inadequately engaged with the construction trades / crafts and manufacturers of construction materials and fittings – the focus is on amenity and heritage societies and local authorities.

Further, interested respondents to the last English Heritage have not been consulted this time, such an approach would be normal practice in the preparation of new planning policies by any local planning authority.


Overall I am concerned at important failings in the draft Advice to provide rounded balance or to embrace the changes in the NPPF, and the reservation of important detailed advice on the future management of change in historic environment to future Technical Guidance.

We now await the Advice in its final form, and should press at every opportunity to influence the promised Technical Guidance. The detail of this will be critical to encouraging local planning authorities to properly evaluate the benefits of good quality replacement windows.

These views are those of

Michael Thornton MRTPI

Merit Thornton Planning Ltd

Regrettably we are unable to answer any specific planning issue however we do try to offer general answers on the blog, please add your comment.


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Assessing the impact of the Consumer Rights Bill

window fitters

Westminster Business Forum are holding a Keynote Seminar in February 2015 and we have been asked to provide a speaker for their panel to provide some first hand feedback on CRD and its impact for the glazing industry:

Consumer rights and dispute resolution – assessing the impact of the Consumer Rights Bill and the ADR Directive

Event description

  • The reformed consumer rights landscape – stakeholder’s perspectives on the ongoing structural reforms to consumer law institutions;
  • Implementing the Consumer Rights Bill – next steps for reforming the rights and remedies for goods, services and digital content;
  • Effective consumer law enforcement – looking at the work of the Trading Standards Institute and local authority enforcement in this area;
  • Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for consumers – latest thinking on consumer dispute resolution outside of court, business involvement and consumer protection; and
  • Online dispute resolution (ODR) – transposing the ODR Regulation and next steps for solving domestic and cross-border e-commerce disputes.

This timely seminar will assess the future framework for consumer rights and dispute resolution in the UK, and key challenges ahead for consumer protection and enforcement mechanisms. The discussion is timed to consider next steps for the Consumer Rights Bill – which would bring about wide-ranging changes to consumer law across markets for goods, services and digital content.

The agenda will also bring out latest thinking on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for consumer issues, particularly as policymakers prepare to transpose the EU’s Directive on Alternative Dispute Resolution in 2015.

Delegates will have the opportunity to consider current proposals to modernise, simplify and consolidate consumer rights legislation. Sessions will also look at the future provision of consumer ADR across different sectors, prospects for compulsory ADR and next steps for online dispute resolution.

The conference will bring together policymakers with key stakeholders – including business groups, consumer bodies, trade associations, ADR providers, Ombudsmen, economists and lawyers.

More information here

Book your place here

We wrote about the new consumer rights back in May this year, what’s your view, have you been affected by CRD, have you changed your guarantees, are your customers happier with their new rights?


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Safestyle advert for 55% off, is found misleading

price of double glazing

HPAS Ltd who trade as Safestyle UK has had two complaints upheld against it for potentially misleading discounts. Two complainants challenged whether the 55% discount claim in ads were misleading and if they could be substantiated.

The following is an extract from the ASA website, click here for the full article

Safestyle “believed they had followed the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Pricing Practices Guide and BCAP Code rules by ensuring that the discount comparison had not been made with prices last offered more than six months before and that the offer was available for a reasonable period to enable consumers the opportunity to take advantage of it”

The ASA acknowledged that “Safestyle products had been sold at list price during the six months before the ads were broadcast, but nonetheless noted that the goods had only been offered at full price for a total of 26 days during those six months. For the other 158 days of the six-month period, the products had been offered at discounted prices of 55%, 60% or as part of a ‘Buy One Get One Free’ offer.”

The ASA considered that “consumers were likely to understand the 55% off claims to mean that the discount was off the usual selling price for the products and that Safestyle had reduced the price for a promotional period”, they noted that, “the products had been on sale at list price for 26 days immediately before the promotion, but had been available at “55% off” for a total of 101 days during the previous five months, a period during which the products had not been offered at full price at any point”.

The ASA considered that, “because the products had been available at the 55% off promotional price, and at other promotional prices, for a period far exceeding the full price during the months leading up to the identical promotion, the 55% saving claim was not based on the price at which the products were usually sold”

Safestyle were told that the ads must not be broadcast again in their current form and that they were to ensure that savings claims, did not mislead about the benefit available.”



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Are your double glazing installations up or down?

double glazing installations growth

Double glazing sales were very strong for the first 6 months of the year, however as we look towards the end of 2014, (just 100 days to Christmas!) and winter promotions are well underway, we ask this question because there are some suggestions in some quarters, that double glazing installations are falling, whilst others seem to be flying.

Questions abound about CE marking and MTC (minimum technical competency), the issues these new standards have thrown up and that many believe these additional compliance measures, have encouraged the growth of the black economy, with many smaller independent fitters working for cash and not registering installations with any competent person scheme or CE marked products. It seems many smaller installation companies think the red tape surrounding a “simple process that they have been doing for years”, is just too much trouble and who really gets caught or fined for non compliance anyway?

Trade fabricators who supply double glazed windows to installers however, seem to be extending lead times considerably and some businesses report significant growth against last year, which suggests double glazing installations should be well up too, yet Fensa installations are down.

One answer could be that there is now a wider choice of competent persons schemes to register jobs, Certass is the main alternative but DGCOS, Network Veka and BSI all provide alternative routes to compliance.

We understand that some competent persons schemes are tightening up and reconsidering, “associate memberships” companies who have previously been able to use the scheme logo but may not actually install windows, are now having their membership terminated.

This is bound to reduce the companies registered but not the installation numbers themselves, so what’s your view, are your sales up or down this year, is the triple glazing push from the two largest players Anglian and Everest hitting affecting your business and are your competitors installing windows but not registering them?


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