The Southport Group has launched an online public consultation to gather opinion on a ground-breaking draft report that outlines recommendations and products for improving historic environment practice to ensure delivery of consistent excellence in public benefit.

The consultation officially launches at the IfA Conference on 13 April and runs until 3 June 2011. All content can be found on the Southport webpage.

The draft report considers key areas of planning-led investigation of the historic environment, identifies obstacles to optimum delivery in the past, presents a vision for new ways of working under PPS5 principles, and makes detailed practical recommendations to reach that vision. The impetus for change stems from the 2010 publication of Planning Policy Statement 5, which offers an extraordinary and rare opportunity for the historic environment sector to ensure its work is truly driven by the interests of what has been discovered or lost and that its overall purpose is the realisation of public benefit.

The consultation asks historic environment professionals to provide written feed-back on whether they endorse the report visions, recommendations and proposed products, and to suggest any changes or additional commendations/products before the June deadline. Comments will help to shape the final report due to launch in July 2011.

Organisations assigned with actions in the report recommendations will be approached over coming weeks and asked if they wish to endorse the visions and commit, insofar as resources allow, to the recommendations subject to any changes they propose. The intention is for key sector bodies to indicate, at the launch of the final report in July, their intention to implement the report’s recommendations.

This is the best opportunity for the sector and those it serves since 1990, and it could well be another 20 years before another chance like this comes along. Please do make this consultation count.

Comments on the report should be emailed to by 3 June.