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Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2023

The Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2023 (the Act) brings together the principal legislation for the conservation of the historic environment in Wales. This means that a single Act now contains all the legislation for the protection and management of historic monuments and buildings, conservation areas and other elements of Welsh historic environment. Bringing together legislation in this way is known as “consolidation”.

Part 2 of the Act deals with monuments of special historic interest, which may range from archaeological sites to the standing ruins of castles, abbeys, or later industrial sites. Amongst other things, the Act requires the Welsh Ministers to maintain the schedule of monuments that they consider to be of national importance (numbering over 4,200 at the present time) and makes provision for the Welsh Ministers to authorise and control works to scheduled monuments.  The Act also provides for the acquisition and guardianship of monuments of special historic interest by the Welsh Ministers or local authorities, which furnishes the basis for the management and conservation of many of the monuments in the care of the Welsh Ministers (in practice, Cadw acting on their behalf).

Part 3 of the Act relates to the more than 30,000 listed buildings in Wales dating from the Middle Ages to more recent times. It requires the Welsh Ministers to list buildings that are, in their view, of special architectural or historic interest, and makes provision for the authorisation and control of works through listed building consent. Planning authorities are primarily responsible for administering the listed building consent system. Part 3 also provides powers for the Welsh Ministers or planning authorities to acquire a building. The Welsh Ministers or a local authority may also undertake urgent works to preserve a building of special architectural or historic interest.

Part 4 deals with conservation areas and provides for their designation as areas of special architectural or historic interest by planning authorities and their periodic review. There are currently over 500 conservation areas in Wales. This Part also includes provisions for the control of demolition and for urgent works in conservation areas and for grants relating to the preservation or enhancement of conservation areas.

Part 5 contains supplementary provisions relating to buildings of special interest and conservation areas. They cover matters such as the exercise of functions by planning authorities, proceedings before the Welsh Ministers and the validity and correction of decisions.

Part 6 of the Act requires the Welsh Ministers to maintain and publish the register of historic parks and gardens in Wales (currently this includes nearly 400 sites) and the list of historic place names in Wales, which has almost 700,000 entries. Part 6 also requires the Welsh Ministers to maintain a historic environment record for each of the 22 local authorities in Wales, details what a historic environment record must contain and sets out the arrangements that must be made for public access to records.

The Explanatory Notes to the Act provide detailed commentary on the various provisions.

Because this Act is a consolidation of earlier legislation, tables of origins and destinations have been prepared. The Table of Origins shows the derivations of the provisions of the Act. The Table of Destinations shows how the enactments replaced by the Act are dealt with by the consolidation. Accompanying Drafters’ Notes explain decisions taken during the drafting of the legislation.

The Act forms part of a Code of law relating to the historic environment of Wales – you can read more about the purpose of Codes of Welsh law and the Government’s wider programme to improve the accessibility of Welsh law in The future of Welsh law programme (available on this website).

Coming into force:

Part 1 and sections 209, 210, 211 (3) and (4), 212 and 213 of the Act came into force on 15 June 2023, which was the day after the Act received Royal Assent, in accordance with section 212(1). The remaining provisions will come into force when the Welsh Ministers make one or more commencement orders, in accordance with section 212(2).

If you want to keep up to date with progress on the implementation of the Act, subscribe to Cadw’s Historic Environment Update

Subordinate legislation made under the Act:

No subordinate legislation has been made under this Act as yet. This page will be updated as and when the Welsh Ministers make relevant regulations and other instruments.

Consideration of the legislation by the Senedd:

The Bill was introduced by Mick Antoniw MS, Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, on 4 July 2022 and passed by Senedd Cymru on 28 March 2023. More information about the Act is available on the Senedd’s website, including a record of the passage of the Bill through the Senedd. The Explanatory Memorandum, which was prepared by the Welsh Government (and revised following the Detailed Committee Consideration stage of the Senedd’s consideration) is also available.

The Act received Royal Assent on 14 June 2023.

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Published on
Last updated
25 October 2023