Houses and cottages in Hesket Newmarket copyright David James

Conservation areas

What is a Conservation Area?

Conservation areas are legally defined as areas of 'special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance'. The special character relates to the quality and interest of an area as a whole rather than just individual buildings.

The designation of a conservation area can be based on qualities such as:

  • the historic layout of streets, plots and boundaries
  • the quality, character and "group interest" of its buildings
  • boundary features and their materials
  • the spaces that the buildings enclose, including open spaces and greenery
  • the views, vistas and 'townscape' character created by the buildings and spaces
  • traditional uses and activities which characterise the area
  • the sounds, smells and activity which give an area its distinctive character

A conservation area may need to change and evolve to meet the changing demands and pressures of daily life. Well-designed, innovative, contemporary and sustainable new developments sensitive to the local character of the area can be beneficial rather than detrimental.

Policies and guidance help manage change without undermining the conservation area's character. Useful advice and case studies on achieving high quality design in sensitive locations are available on the Building in Context website.

Find out more in Benefits of living in a Conservation Area.

View Conservation Areas

Click any of the links to conservation areas on the left-hand side for more details.

Designation, appraisal and management

As the local planning authority for the area we must consider whether further historic areas need conservation area designation. We are responsible for reviewing existing conservation areas and their boundaries. For each new or existing conservation area we prepare a conservation area appraisal and management plan. You can find out more on the Designation, Appraisal and Management page.

Legally we must formulate and publish proposals for the preservation and enhancement of our Conservation Areas. We are encouraged to use controls such as Article 4 Directions to prevent the loss of historic features. There is more explanation of Article 4 Directions in Benefits of living in a Conservation Area.

Demolishing buildings in a Conservation Area

Planning permission is required for any works for the demolition of most buildings contained in a Conservation Area.

The unauthorised demolition of a building (including walls) can give rise to criminal liability. Please contact us to clarify the need for permission. Do not proceed until permission is formally granted in writing following the submission of an application.

What works would be acceptable?

You might find the following useful to find out about our and the government's approach to conserving the historic environment:

Homeowners can also find more detailed guidance in the English Heritage - Your Home section (opens in new window). This has useful information about owning, looking after and altering an historic home.

Working on trees in a Conservation Area

Please read our Trees and hedgerows page.