Special rules for Conservation Areas

In an earlier blogpost on planning permissions (and Building Regulations), I commented that special rules apply to Listed Buildings and properties in Conservation Areas.

Conservation Areas

A Conservation Area is an area of ‘special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’.  When a Conservation Area is designated, the Local Planning Authority (“LPA”) – the relevant borough or district council or unitary authority – has recognised that the area has a special character and identity which is worth protecting.

Conservation Areas are diverse in character and size, but all are important due to the quality and attraction of the area as a whole.

The relevant legislation requires the LPA to ‘preserve or enhance’ the character of each Conservation Area and all new proposals which affect that special character have to be considered in the light of this requirement. What is expected is a sensitive management of change within an area through the planning process, rather than no change at all. This can be achieved by the preparation of a character appraisal for each Conservation Area, by policy making, and by prudent development control. The character appraisal will clearly define and analyse the special architectural or historic interest that warrants the area’s designation, providing a framework for future planning decisions and enhancement.

Conservation Area designation introduces a greater control over demolition, minor development, advertisements and work to trees.

Government planning guidance emphasises the need for our built and natural heritage to be valued and protected as a central part of our cultural heritage and that the responsibility for environmental management is shared.

Trees within Conservation Areas

It is the character and appearance of Conservation Areas as a whole that the LPA is required to preserve and enhance, not just that of buildings within them. A major element in the character and appearance of many areas is the trees and gardens within them. Therefore, ill-considered works to trees may not only lead to the loss of the trees themselves, but also ruin the appearance of the area surrounding them and spoil the setting of any building nearby

Anyone wishing to carry out work to a tree in a Conservation Area which is not already protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) must give the relevant borough or district council (or unitary authority) least six weeks’ notice of any proposed work to established trees. Trees have legal protection equivalent to a TPO for that period and the council may decide to make a TPO.

Trees in a Conservation Area which are exempt are those which are dead, dying or dangerous, are less than 75mm (3″) diameter at 1500mm (5’0″) above ground level (or not more than 100mm (4″) diameter at that height where the act is to improve the growth of other trees), fruit trees cultivated for fruit production, and trees which have to be felled in order to carry out development for which planning permission has been granted. However, it is always advisable to check with the LPA’s Tree Officer before carrying out any work.

Where the loss of a tree is unavoidable, replanting with species that are native or traditional to the area will normally be encouraged.


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