A conservation area is an ‘area of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which is desirable to preserve or enhance’ (Section 69 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990).
Conservation areas can come in a variety of sites and types. They can be villages, neighbourhoods or parts of towns which have been identified as having a special character and quality. Every area has a distinctive character, derived from its topography, historic development, current uses and features such as streets, hedges, archaeological monuments, buildings and place names.
Understanding and appreciating an areas character, including its social and economic background and the way in which such factors have shaped the urban fabric, should be the starting point for making decisions about both its management and its future. They are not open-air museums but living communities which must be allowed to change over time in order to remain vital and prosperous. It is important that all new development should be sympathetic to the special architectural and aesthetic qualities of the area, particularly in terms of scale, design, materials and space between buildings.
A number of special controls and requirements apply in Conservation Areas to protect their character: