A conservation area is an area of special architectural or historic interest; preserving or enhancing the character and appearance of these areas is an important part of our planning policy. This page gives guidance if you are living in, or considering moving to, a conservation area.
What is the special character of a conservation area?
When a conservation area is designated, it is the character of the area, the familiar and cherished local scene, that we are seeking to protect. The familiar local scene is made of the buildings, the historic layout of roads, paths and boundaries; characteristic building and paving materials; a particular 'mix' of building uses; public and private spaces such as gardens, parks and greens; and trees and street furniture, which contribute to particular views.
Conservation areas give broader protection than listing individual buildings: all the features within a conservation area, listed or otherwise, are recognised as part of its character, as are the range of uses to which land and buildings are put.
What additional protections do conservation areas have?
The emphasis within conservation areas is on ensuring that any changes strengthen local character, not diminish it. Conservation areas are protected in several ways:
- Stricter planning controls over the demolition or alteration of unlisted buildings and works to trees
- There is a statutory requirement for us to consider the impact of any proposed development upon the character or appearance of the area
- Specific policies and character appraisals of the area which define its special characteristics, and outline how we will protect them
- Designation creates additional responsibilities for those involved. We welcome your involvement in the care of conservation areas, through residents' associations, amenity groups and local history groups, to ensure we maintain standards
What sorts of works are controlled in conservation areas?
Houses, flats and commercial properties
There are more restrictions on developments to these buildings. For example, you will need planning permission to clad the exterior of your home, alter the shape of your roof, add an extension or install features such as a chimney or antenna to some buildings. Further information is also available on the Historic England website.
We will demand a higher standard of design to approve proposals new developments. This will affect issues such as scale, height, form, massing, density of development and detailed design and quality of materials. We will not normally permit proposals to subdivide grounds or large gardens, unless you can demonstrate that this will not harm the character or appearance of the area. We will typically insist that planning applications include a statement explaining how the development meets these statutory tests.
You will need planning permission for some demolition even if the building is unlisted. We will determine which cases need permission, and you should always check with us first when considering demolition works. The Planning Portal also has advice.
Garden walls and boundaries
You will often need permission for the demolition of garden walls, especially those facing a highway or public footpath. Further controls on Permitted Development rights will apply if we have made an 'Article 4 Direction'. Find more guidance on this by contacting us directly.
Trees are part of the character and setting of a conservation area. All trees in conservation areas with a trunk diameter of 75mm or more (measured at 1.5m above ground level) are legally protected. This means that you have to notify us at least six weeks before doing any works, like trimming them, or carrying out any development near them, such as building a shed next to a protected tree. Mature trees in conservation areas may have a Tree Preservation Order. In this case, you have to make a formal planning application for any works to them. It is a criminal offence not to make these notifications or applications.
Trees which are dead, or have become dangerous, are creating a legal nuisance, or need to be pruned to produce fruit, are exempt from these restrictions. Where a tree is lost in a conservation area, we recommend replanting with species that are native or traditional to the area.
Contact us for advice
If you live in a conservation area and are thinking about carrying out alterations to your property or work to trees, we can offer you, or your planning agent, expert advice on a wide variety of issues (including pre-application guidance), as part of our Pre-application Advice Service.