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Enabling Development and Heritage Assets

What is Enabling Development?

Enabling development is the method of allowing development that would have a seemingly unfavourable impact on a heritage asset, in order to generate revenue that will further contribute to the long-term conservation of the wider historic environment. This essentially means outweighing the potential harm caused by the initial development to the heritage asset.

Historic England summarises enabling development as:

'development that would not be in compliance with local and/or national planning policies, and not normally be given planning permission, except for the fact that it would secure the future conservation of a heritage asset’.'

How is it Justified?

The crucial aspect of enabling development is that it would secure the viable long-term conservation of a given heritage asset, but only if other reasonable efforts have failed, and the balance outlined in Paragraph 202 of NPPF is met.

For all intents and purposes, these criteria are quite reasonable, allowing the minimum amount of additional development and in turn, mitigating any potential detrimental impact to the heritage asset.

Examples of enabling development may include but are not limited to:

  • residential conversions of ancillary structures

  • new builds

  • extensions

  • internal alterations to a heritage asset in order to achieve their optimum viable use.

It is intended that such revenue-generating development would allow for the conservation and restoration of the primary heritage asset.

Through our experience, the majority of enabling development planning applications that we have come across are cases centred around residential schemes. This is largely due to residential uses typically representing the optimum viable use for a heritage asset, which would secure its long-term conservation and, of course, the potential for a higher return for the investors through minimal development.


Any case for enabling development needs to be accompanied by a detailed development appraisal and a Heritage Impact Assessment in order to justify the necessity for it to be included as a part of the proposal.

At Blue Willow Heritage, we provide expert advice on how to identify, manage and best develop your heritage assets in a mode sympathetic with their significance. If you need support managing your heritage assets, then Blue Willow Heritage can help. If you would like to discuss your project or simply need some impartial, no-obligation advice, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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