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Standards for inclusion on the lists

Dorset is a county enviably endowed with a long, rich history. It is one that is encountered across its landscape: from the bustling coastal towns to the picturesque chalkland villages, from the fertile land of the vales to the harsh setting of the heathlands. There is barely a corner of the county that hasn’t been touched by human activity in some way, creating a historic environment teeming with evidence of past peoples and activities.

The importance the county plays in the national story is evident by the high number of statutory designations – scheduled monuments, listed buildings, parks and gardens, conservation areas – but many more sites and places contribute to that story. It really is an endlessly fascinating place to explore.

While the high level of survival of heritage assets in the region is something to be celebrated, selectivity is required when considering both national and local heritage designations. This is to ensure that the best examples of their type and those that matter most to local communities are recognised, while at the same time allowing the story to continue where there is capacity to accommodate positive, high-quality change and development to meet the needs of communities today.

To designate everything in the county on the basis that it is ‘old’ would undermine the value of designation in the first place. This is why assessments of significance are not based on what the asset is but why it is significant. It is also important that, as far as is possible, there is a consistency and transparency in the designation process.

With this in mind, one of the aims of the Dorset Local Heritage Lists project was to set clear standards that assets have to meet in order to be included on the list. The first of these is that, in line with the National Heritage List for England, nominations for the local lists must be at least 30 years old; under exceptional circumstances a case may be made for younger assets, but their local interest would need to be outstanding in multiple values.

Ensuring all assets are assessed against the same set of criteria was another way to ensure consistency. A further way was to assign a level of significance to the criteria for each asset. For Dorset, the following levels of local significance have been developed:

  • outstanding
  • high
  • moderate
  • little
  • none

Each nomination for inclusion on the list will be assessed against the criteria and then assigned a level for each criterion. With the assessment of significance complete, the asset has to meet one of a set of three scenarios to be considered of enough local importance for inclusion on the list. The scenarios are as follows:

  1. outstanding local interest in one criterion. This bar is set very high; assets of this value may warrant consideration for national designation
  2. high local interest in one criterion and at least moderate in two others
  3. moderate or above in four or more of the criteria

 For example:

Nominations for inclusion on the list
Asset nameArchaeological ValueHistoric Illustrative ValueHistoric  AssociativeValueArchitectural ValueAesthetic ValueCommunal ValueCriteria met for inclusion on the list

Building A

None

Moderate

Little

Moderate

Moderate

Little

No

Building B

None

Moderate

Little

High

Moderate

Little

Yes

Structure

None

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

Yes

Park

Little

Moderate

Little

Little

High

High

Yes

Although there is always a necessary and important element of judgement when assessing the significance of heritage assets, it is hoped that by setting these standards the final decision is clearly presented and justified. It also minimises discrepancies between assessors, and means that those carrying out assessments in the future can understand previous decisions and carry out their own assessments in line with these standards.

Examples of how this assessment process works in practice can be found on the guidance page under case studies.

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