The Government's latest draft Planning Policy Statement on building within the historic environment, published last Friday, could only add to uncertainty among council planners and developers, according to Manchester-based consultancy Development Planning Partnership.
PPS 15 was published despite the Government having dropped its Heritage Protection Bill earlier this year.
Roger Mascall, partner and head of DPP's heritage practice, said: "The absence of the Heritage Protection Bill, required to introduce primary legislation to allow true reform, is largely side-stepped – although its language and key concepts are used.
"Indeed, the PPS is promoted as helping to 'keep up the momentum' in fulfilling the objectives of the heritage protection reform programme. Realistically, however, there is a limit to what the PPS can achieve alone."
Mascall also expressed concern at the vague and broad language used in the draft PPS. He added: "The draft PPS, for example, adopts the term 'heritage assets' as a catch-all for all buildings, monuments, sites, landscapes etc, whether designated as being of special interest or not.
"Policies devised to control change to such a broad and ill-defined category should be viewed with caution and are not supported by primary legislation – this could lead to uncertainty in the planning process.
"Whilst few would doubt that a review of heritage policy and guidance is long overdue, there is a danger that it becomes less intelligible alongside existing legislation."