The main pieces of legislation in this area are:
- the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979
- the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. and
- the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016.
The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, as amended by the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016, provides the legal framework for the designation, protection and management of scheduled monuments in Wales. The Welsh Ministers, acting through the Welsh Government’s Historic Environment Service (Cadw), compile and maintain a Schedule of monuments of national importance. It is an offence to damage a scheduled monument or to undertake works without appropriate consent.
The 1979 Act also regulates the acquisition or guardianship of ancient monuments by the Welsh Ministers or local authorities and public access to such monuments.
The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, as amended by the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016, establishes the legal basis for the designation, protection and management of listed buildings in Wales. The Welsh Ministers, again acting through Cadw, compile lists of buildings of special architectural or historic interest. Listed building consent is required for works that affect the character of a listed building; unauthorised works constitute an offence. In addition, the 1990 Act gives powers to local authorities to take action to preserve deteriorating listed buildings.
Local planning authorities may also designate areas of special architectural or historic interest as ‘conservation areas’ under the 1990 Act. There are restrictions on certain works to buildings and trees within conservation areas.
In addition to amending aspects of the 1979 and 1990 Acts, the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016 includes a number of stand-alone provisions. One places a duty upon the Welsh Ministers to compile and maintain a statutory list of historic place names in Wales. Another requires the Welsh Ministers to compile and keep up to date a historic environment record for each local authority area in Wales.
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales was established by Royal Warrant in 1908. It has the role of surveying and recording ancient and historical monuments and constructions.