Conservation area frequently asked questions

What is a conservation area?

Conservation areas are areas which have been designated because of their special architectural or historic interest and where it is beneficial to preserve or enhance their character or appearance. There are now more than 8,000 conservation areas in England. These areas are important for their special qualities e.g. historic buildings, the layout of the settlement; open spaces etc. The key legislation is the 1990 Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act, which states in section 72 - General duty as respects conservation areas in exercise of planning functions. (1) In the exercise, with respect to any buildings or other land in a conservation area, of any powers under any of the provisions mentioned in subsection (2), special attention shall be paid to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area.

How are conservation areas designated?

Conservation areas are designated by the local authority, on the basis of whether the area is of special architectural or historic interest and whether it would be beneficial to preserve or enhance that character or appearance. The process includes detailed analysis of the proposed Conservation Area, public consultation and formal approval by the local authority.

Can a conservation area boundary be altered once it has been designated?

Yes, the local authority can undertake boundary reviews to identify potential boundary changes or redesignations. Such boundary reviews are normally undertaken during the preparation of a ‘character appraisal’ for the area.

What is a Conservation Area appraisal and management plan?

Conservation Area appraisals set out what is important about an area in terms of its character, architecture, history, development form and landscaping. The management plan sets out various positive proposals to improve the character and appearance of the Conservation Area.

What are the Council planning policies for development in conservation areas?

We follow the guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework and the National Planning Practice Guidance. Development proposals are considered on the basis of whether they preserve and enhance the character and appearance of the relevant Conservation Area. In addition, the local planning authority includes Policy CC2 of the Coventry City Centre Area Action Plan 2011-2031 in regard to Heritage in the city, and reference may be drawn to local policy HE1, HE2 and HE3 within the Coventry Local Plan 2016.

The role of residents, property owners and the local authority in conservation

The success of a conservation area depends on the joint commitment of the local authorities and those living and working in the conservation area working to preserve and enhance its character. Some change must occur in conservation areas to allow them to accommodate vital, thriving communities. It is important that conservation areas are able to respond to changing economic, social and cultural conditions without losing their special, often unique historic and architectural qualities.

Residents and property owners living within conservation areas can help to protect its character when considering carrying out works to their properties. Small incremental changes to properties such as the replacement of original windows or doors or the use of inappropriate building materials can have a cumulative effect on the character and appearance of individual buildings and upon the areas as a whole. Equally, poorly conceived new development or insensitive extensions to older properties can detract from the character of a conservation area. Not all buildings located within a conservation area will be historic, but following the general principles and guidance contained within appraisals and management plans when carrying out works will ensure the character of the area is preserved and enhanced.

Carrying out works in a conservation area

The main purpose of conservation area designation is to acknowledge the special character of an area. This influences the way in which the council, as the local planning authority, deals with planning applications that may affect the area. Within conservation areas, permitted development rights are often restricted, this means that applications for planning permission may be required for certain types of work that would not normally need consent.

Before commencing any work within a conservation area, property owners, occupiers and other interested parties should determine whether planning permission is required for a proposal. Permitted development rights may have also been removed by an Article 4 direction or via a planning condition, clarifications of which may be ascertained through contact with the local planning authority.

If you live in a conservation area, you should make sure that any changes you make to your property through repair, maintenance, or alterations, are in keeping with the character of the building and the area. Advice on best practice before considering making changes to your property in a conservation area can be sought from the local planning authority whilst reference can also be drawn to Making Changes to Your Property (historicengland.org.uk)

Glossary of Terms

  • Active frontage: ground floor level frontages that are not blank, in order to encourage human interaction. For example, windows, active doors, shops, restaurants and cafes
  • Alteration: work intended to change the function or appearance or part thereof a heritage asset.
  • Amenity: elements that contribute to people’s experience of overall character or enjoyment of an area. For example, open land, trees, historic buildings and the interrelationship between them, or less tangible factors such as tranquillity
  • Archaeological Evaluation: a limited archaeological investigation to understand the nature and extent of below-ground archaeological remains within a site.
  • Archaeological Impact Assessment: a largely desk-based exercise, incorporating the results of a site walkover survey and other specialist surveys as required to identify the potential impacts of a development proposal upon archaeological assets, and upon potential new archaeological sites and features. It assesses the significance of assets, the magnitude of impact of development, and recommends mitigation. May also be referred to as Heritage Impact Assessment.
  • Archaeological Monitoring: a formal programme of observation, investigation and recording of any archaeological remains which may be encountered during the initial phases of a development, for example topsoil stripping or site preparation works. Also known as a Watching Brief.
  • Archaeological Planning Conditions: Conditions which are attached to planning approvals which must be met to allow the proposal to be acceptable to applicable archaeological planning policies.
  • Archaeological Programme of Works: A written document prepared by an archaeological consultant which describes archaeological works to be undertaken at a site. For planning conditions, it must set out a detailed archaeological mitigation strategy specific to the archaeological potential of the site and to the nature of the development. It is also used for associated excavation licence applications. Also referred to as a Written Scheme, Written Scheme of Investigation (WSI), or Method Statement.
  • Ashlar: stone walling consisting of courses of finely jointed and finished blocks to give a smooth appearance
  • At risk: an historic building, structure, landscape, site, place or archaeology, which is threatened with damage or destruction by vacancy, decay, neglect or inappropriate development
  • Building line: the position of buildings relative to the edge of a pavement or road. It might be hard against it, set back, regular or irregular, broken by gaps between buildings, or jump back and forth
  • Conservation: The process of managing change to a heritage asset in its setting in ways that will best sustain its heritage values, while recognising opportunities to reveal or reinforce those values for present and future generations.
  • Context: Any relationship between a heritage asset and its setting, including other places and its past, relevant to the values of that heritage asset.
  • Curtilage: An area of land attached to a house and forming one enclosure with it
  • Designated heritage asset: buildings, monuments, sites, places, areas, landscapes or archaeology that are protected by legislation: World Heritage Site, Scheduled Monument, Listed Building, Registered Park and Garden, Registered Battlefield and Conservation Area
  • Edwardian: refers to the period from 1901 to 1910, the reign of King Edward VII, but often used in a more general way to refer to the whole period from 1900 to 1914.
  • Enclosure: the sense in which a street feels contained by buildings, or trees
  • English bond brickwork: an arrangement of bricks with courses showing the short side (headers) separating courses showing the long side (stretchers)
  • Fabric: The material substance of which places are formed, including geology, archaeological deposits, structures and buildings, construction materials, decorative details and finishes and planted or managed flora
  • Flemish bond brickwork: an arrangement of bricks in which the short side (headers) and long side (stretchers) alternate in each course
  • Georgian: dating to between 1714 and 1830, i.e. during the reign of one of the four Georges: King George I to King George IV
  • Harm: Change for the worse, here primarily referring to the effect of inappropriate interventions on the heritage interest of a heritage asset.
  • Heritage: All inherited resources which people value for reasons beyond mere utility.
  • Heritage asset: A building, monument, site, place, area or landscape identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions, because of its heritage interest.
  • Hipped roof: a pitched roof with four slopes of equal pitch
  • Historic environment: All aspects of the environment resulting from the interaction between people and places through time, including all surviving physical remains of past human activity, whether visible, buried or submerged, and deliberately planted or managed flora.
  • Historic plot: for the purposes of this document, this means the land and building plot divisions shown on nineteenth century Ordnance Survey maps
  • Impact: May refer to Visual Impact, an impact upon visual aspects of the setting of a heritage asset, or to Physical Impact, a direct impact upon the physical remains of the asset.             
  • Integrity : A measure to the wholeness and intactness of a heritage asset and the survival and condition of those elements that contribute to their significance.
  • Intervention: Any action which has a physical effect on the fabric or appreciation of a place.
  • Listed Buildings: buildings and structures defined by the Secretary of State as being of “special architectural or historic interest”. They include buildings and structures that are deemed to be of importance on a national scale. However, not all listed buildings are grand or attractive – sometimes architectural or historic significance may take precedence over visual qualities, and even fairly small structures such as milestones and water pumps may be listed. There are 3 grades of listing:
    • Grade I – of exceptional interest
    • Grade II* (commonly referred to as “grade two-star”) - of particular importance and containing outstanding features.
    • Grade II – of special interest which warrants every effort to preserve them.
  • Landmark: a prominent building or structure (or sometimes space). Its prominence is normally physical (such as a church spire) but may be social (a village pub) or historical (village stocks)
  • Legibility: the ability to navigate through, or ‘read’, the urban environment. Can be improved by means such as good connections between places, landmarks and signage
  • Massing: the arrangement, shape and scale of individual or combined built form
  • Maintenance: Routine work regularly necessary to keep the fabric of a place, including its setting, in good order.
  • Mitigation: The process whereby the impacts of development can be avoided, minimised or offset.
  • Movement: how people and goods move around – on foot, by bike, car, bus, train or lorry
  • Non-designated heritage asset: a building, monument, site, place, area or landscape identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions, but which does not have the degree of special interest that would merit designation at the national level, e.g. listing
  • Pitched roof: a roof with sloping sides meeting at a ridge. Include m-shaped roofs, hipped roofs and semi-hipped
  • Public realm: the publicly-accessible space between buildings – streets, squares, quaysides, paths, parks and gardens – and its components, such as pavement, signage, seating and planting
  • Roofscape: the ‘landscape’ of roofs, chimneys, towers, spires etc.
  • Roughcast: outer covering to a wall consisting of plaster mixed with gravel or other aggregate, giving a rough texture.
  • Rubble stone: irregular blocks of stone used to make walls
  • Setting: the aspects of the surroundings of an historic building, structure, landscape, site, place, archaeology or conservation area that contribute to its significance
  • Significance: the special historical, architectural, cultural, archaeological or social interest of a building, structure, landscape, site, place or archaeology – forming the reasons why it is valued
  • Streetscape: the ‘landscape’ of the streets – the interaction of buildings, spaces and topography (an element of the wider townscape, see below)
  • Townscape: the ‘landscape’ of towns and villages – the interaction of buildings, streets, spaces and topography
  • Urban grain: the arrangement or pattern of the buildings and streets. It may be fine or coarse, formal or informal, linear, blocky, planned, structured or unstructured
  • Vernacular: traditional forms of building using local materials.
  • Victorian: dating to between 1837 and 1901, i.e. during the reign of Queen Victoria