Designated to conserve the character or appearance of those parts of the built environment which are of special historic or architectural interest.
What is a conservation area?
A Conservation Area is defined as: 'an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character and appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance'. - Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.
The purpose of a conservation area is not to prevent all development but rather to enable its careful management.
Various factors contribute to the special character of a Conservation Area. These include:
- the quality of buildings, the historic layout of roads
- paths and boundaries
- boundary treatments and patterns of enclosure
- characteristic building and paving materials
- uses and associations
- the quality of the public realm and contribution made by trees and green spaces
A strong 'sense of place' is often associated with Conservation Areas. It is the function of Conservation Area Appraisals to assess and evaluate 'character' as a means of assisting the planning process.
Owning and developing land and property within a conservation area
While subject to normal planning controls a range of additional controls and considerations also apply within Conservation Areas:
Unlisted buildings and structures are protected from substantial works of demolition (as defined by case law this means the whole of a building or structure, or whole of a building minus the façade). Qualifying works of demolition affecting unlisted properties will require planning permission.
Proposals to demolish buildings or structures that are deemed to make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the area will not usually be looked upon favourably. An approved scheme for redevelopment will normally be required before consent to demolish will be granted.
The main exceptions to the rule include:
- any building with a total cubic content not exceeding 115 cubic metres (as ascertained by external measurement) or any part of such a building - with the exception of a pre-1925 tombstone
- any gate, wall, fence or means of enclosure which is less than one metre high where abutting on a highway (including a public footpath or bridleway), waterway or open space, or less than two metres high in any other case
- any building erected since 1 January 1914 and in use, or last used, for the purposes of agriculture or forestry
- certain buildings used for industry
Where demolition is being considered early consultation with local Planning and Conservation Officers should be sought. It is a criminal offence to carry out unauthorised works.
Within a Conservation Area householder permitted development rights are subject to some restriction (see GPDO 1995 and amendments).
Planning permission will be required for:
- cladding of the exterior with stone, artificial stone, pebble dash, render, timber, plastic or tiles
- construction of an extension on the side elevation of an original dwelling house
- construction of an extension exceeding one storey on the rear of an original dwelling house
- any enlargement consisting of addition to or alteration of the roof
- provision of a building, enclosure, pool or container within the curtilage incidental to enjoyment between a wall forming a side elevation and the boundary of the dwelling house
- installation of a chimney, flue, or soil and vent pipe on a wall or roof slope fronting a highway and forming the principal or side elevation
- installation of microwave antenna on a chimney wall or roof slope facing onto or visible from a highway, or on a building >15m high
- installation of solar panels on the ground within the curtilage where these are visible from a highway
- on the wall of a building within the curtilage where visible from a highway
- on a wall which forms a principal or side elevation of the dwelling house where visible from a highway
There is a general requirement for solar panels to be positioned with regard to minimising affect upon the external appearance of a building and amenity of the area within which it stands.
Permitted development rights of shops, offices, financial or professional services are also restricted, planning permission is required for any 'alteration'.
Further restrictions may be applied by the Local Authority or Secretary of State through use of Article 4 Directions where a good case can be made.
- high standards of design are expected for new development within Conservation Areas. Proposals which pay special regard to prevailing patterns of height, massing, layout, articulation, enclosure and use of locally relevant materials will be required. Early consultation should be sought with local Planning and Conservation Officers. Further information on Conservation Area character can be obtained from Character Appraisals where these have been produced
- additional restrictions apply in regard to advertisements. Captive balloon adverts, posters displayed on hoardings around building sites, illuminated advertisements and house builder's flags on building sites require Advertisement Consent. Advertisements must be sympathetic to the character and appearance of the area
- changes of use which require Planning permission may be considered in terms of the impact such change would have upon the character of a Conservation Area
- all trees and shrubs with branches 75mm or more in diameter at 1.5 metres above ground level are protected from felling, lopping and pruning. Six weeks' written notice must be provided to the Borough Council's Tree Officer in each instance during which time a Tree Preservation Order may be served
Further advice and guidance can be obtained by contacting your Council's Design and Conservation Officer, the relevant area Planning Officer or Tree Officer.
Find out who to contact for advice and guidance
Your local Design and Conservation Officer will be pleased to answer any general queries relating to the historic environment and provide more specific advice regarding issues of maintenance, repair, alteration and new development affecting listed buildings, conservation areas or other heritage assets.
Pre-application advice can be offered where applicable and this is recommended as a means of facilitating the formulation of appropriate proposals of sufficient detail and quality likely to be approved by the Local Planning Authority. This may be charged at local rates.