Within North Norfolk there are currently some 81 locations that have been designated as Conservation Areas. Defined in planning legislation as “areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance”, these cover everything from our towns and villages, through to rural estates and landscapes.
Conservation Areas derive their special interest from the collective character of the area, rather than from any individual features or structures. Although commonly centred round groups of old buildings, the interest can also come from open spaces, trees, and historic street patterns. Fundamentally, however, conservation area designation has more relevance to the built environment rather than to the natural one (for which there are a number of separate landscape and wildlife designations).
Conservation Area status does give added protection against unsympathetic development which might otherwise spoil an area’s special character. Hence there are additional controls over the demolition of certain buildings and structures, and over certain extensions and alterations. Permission can also be required to cut down, lop or top trees within a designated area.
Proposals for new development within Conservation Areas will generally only be permitted if they:
- Achieve a high standard of design which is compatible with the character and appearance of the area;
- Are compatible with the scale, mass, form and siting of existing buildings and their settings;
- Use appropriate materials;
- Include native landscaping that compliments the area;
- Do not result in the loss of important open spaces or features of interest;
- Do not impinge upon important views in to, out of, and within a Conservation Area,
- Retain traditional architectural features such as chimneys, doorcases and parapets, as well as boundary walls, fences and railings which often contribute important enclosure.
Conservation Area status also adds additional projection from demolition. Certain works need planning for 'relevant demolition' in a conservation area including:
- Demolition of a building with a volume of more than 115 cubic metres.
- To demolish a gate, fence, wall or railing more than one metre high next to a highway (including a public footpath or bridleway) or public open space; or more than two metres high elsewhere.
The demolition of an unlisted building in a conservation area, without the permission of the local planning authority is a criminal offence
In conservation areas, notice is required for works to trees that have a trunk diameter of more than 75mm when measured at 1.5m from ground level (or more than 100mm if reducing the number of trees to benefit the growth of other trees).
There is a requirement to give the local planning authority six weeks’ notice before carrying out work on trees which are located in a conservation area but are not yet the subject of a tree preservation order. This gives the authority an opportunity to consider whether an order should be made to protect the trees.