Living in a conservation area
A conservation area is statutorily defined as an ‘area of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’. Conservation areas are designated by the Council and in these areas we apply stricter planning controls, as detailed below.
How conservation areas are identified
Government guidance emphasises that it is the quality and interest of an area, rather than that of individual buildings, when identifying conservation areas. There are many factors that contribute to the character of a conservation area, but usually it is a combination of a clear and special spatial identity, the architectural and historic interest, and a distinctive townscape quality that will lead to its designation.
Characteristics that can contribute an area’s special interest:
- the historic layout of property boundaries and thoroughfares
- relationships of buildings and spaces between them
- scale, form and detailing of buildings
- characteristic materials
- a particular mix of uses
- quality of shop fronts, street furniture, hard and soft surfaces
- the topography, trees and open spaces.
External works to houses
Planning permission is required for some external works to houses within a conservation area. This is in addition to the standard restrictions to permitted development that apply to all single dwelling houses. More about external works to houses in conservation areas.
Article 4 directions
Some conservation areas have Article 4 directions made to the area or specified streets. As a result, planning permission may be required for certain minor changes, such as the replacement of windows and doors or front boundaries. More about Article 4 directions.
A heritage statement is required for all planning applications affecting buildings in conservation areas and listed buildings (both nationally-listed and locally-listed), including applications affecting the setting of a building.
The legislation and guidance
The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 is the primary legislation for the designation and management of conservation areas. Government guidance on how to interpret the Act is the National Planning Policy Framework (2012) combined with the English Heritage Planning for the Historic Environment Practice Guide.
Works to flats and commercial properties
Flats or subdivided houses in conservation areas do not have permitted development rights and must seek planning permission to undertake changes to the exterior.
This includes alterations such as such the erection of a satellite dish or replacing windows or doors. Commercial properties have limited development rights, and we recommend you talk to us before undertaking any works.
Trees in conservation areas
Trees are often very important to the character of conservation areas, either in groups or as single specimens.
It is an offence to cut down or wilfully damage any tree in a conservation area without giving six weeks written notice first. More about trees in conservation areas.
Conservation area consent is required for the demolition of buildings, or walls over one metre high. Consent for demolition is not normally granted where a building contributes to the character of the conservation area. Submit a demolition notice.
New developments in conservation areas
A high standard of design is expected that preserves or enhances the character or appearance of the area. We recommend that developers seek informal advice before submitting an application.