Heritage Consultancy Significant to Recovering Pace of Development

04 Jun 2015

Following our acquisition of British planning and historic environment consultant CgMs on 11th August 2014, RPS has the UK's largest team of specialist heritage consultants with considerable experience in almost all aspects of planning and development. Complementing our existing teams of expert professionals, the expansion boosts our capability to advise on a number of high-profile projects and continue to respond effectively to the renewed increase in demand for a complex multidisciplinary consultancy service package tailored and delivered by one provider.

“Heritage was one of the planning world's hottest subjects in 2014 and remains high as a material planning consideration” says RPS CgMs' Jason Clemons “A number of court and appeal decisions have resulted in decision makers giving particular attention to the potential impact of development proposals upon the setting of heritage assets, most notably listed buildings. Two principal development sectors affected are large scale residential schemes and renewable energy proposals. This raising of the heritage profile has had a general knock-on effect on any proposal that could potentially harm the setting or significance of a heritage asset.”

Recent RPS successes have included winning a proposal at Planning Inquiry for 160 dwellings in Sussex for Barratts where a principal issue was its impact upon a listed farm, and the south Wales A465 Heads of the Valleys project: within a National Park, almost wholly within a designated Landscape of Outstanding Historic Interest and within the setting of a World Heritage Site; for which RPS produced all necessary heritage documentation through the consenting process including a Public Inquiry.

“In a recovering economy there is often a need to progress development schemes through the planning process as quickly as possible” RPS' Mick Rawlings explains “This can be driven by national government ambitions to ‘front-load’ recovery through funding new schemes such as housing and infrastructure. In this situation it is crucial that private and public sector developers have access to high-quality heritage consultancy. Heritage can be a very emotive subject as developers go through the various stages of consultation that are now routine for major schemes.”

Heritage consultancy has remained in high demand in Australia where RPS has advised on archaeological and heritage matters for a number of large-scale projects – both for planning and for energy development including several centred around Sydney's busy CBD. These include European heritage assessment for the proposed Western Sydney Airport; archaeological works prior to major amenity improvements around the Tank Stream; and the Aboriginal and European heritage assessment prior to the redevelopment of Westmead Hospital.

“In 2008/9, with the Australian economy heading for recession, the federal government announced economic stimulus packages worth $52.4bn, including a $26bn infrastructure program” says RPS' Erin Williams “China's insatiable demand for ore and coal resulted in Australia's mining boom that, combined with the infrastructure spend, ensured positive growth through the worst of the global conditions.

This saw unprecedented demand for heritage consultants. In a field where traditional employment opportunities were few and generally public sector, demand for consultants outstripped supply. Small consultancies mushroomed, targeting the remote mining sector while established consultancies underwent rapid expansion as they scrambled to maintain market share.

Subsequent decline in ore and coal prices has resulted in substantial rationalisation in the volume of heritage work. The lessons learned from the GFC stressed the importance of maintaining a work balance across several markets, with a mix of public and private sector clients. Our heritage team has established a strong pipeline of infrastructure projects, supplemented by urban growth and mining work. Our recent work on the Pacific Highway Upgrade in northern New South Wales, one of the State's largest road infrastructure projects is indicative of our growing local reputation in this field. By maintaining position as premier heritage consultants we ensure sustainable and profitable growth into the future.”

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