Historic buildings help give Wales its special character and make it distinctive. The need to preserve the best examples has long been recognised in legislation. Individual buildings of special architectural or historic interest have been given special protection in planning law, most recently the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, as amended by the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and supplemented by guidance. Local planning authorities have primary responsibility for much of the work referred to, and Cadw supports them in fulfilling that role as well as, in certain cases, playing an important part in the planning process.
Section 1 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 requires the Welsh Ministers to draw up a list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest. Assessment of structures for listing falls to Cadw's inspectors of historic buildings.
Properties are listed under three categories:
- The majority, of special interest, are in Grade II.
- A much smaller number of particularly important buildings are listed as Grade II*.
- Buildings of exceptional interest (2 per cent of the total) are in the top Grade I.
All buildings constructed before 1700, and which survive in anything like their original condition, qualify for listing, as do most buildings dating to between 1700 and 1840. Between 1840 and 1914, only buildings of a definite quality and character qualify (especially those which are the significant works of principal architects). Some buildings from between 1914 and 1939, and a small number of post-war buildings, have also been listed. A building of merit, whatever its age, is eligible for consideration for protection by listing.
A survey of all communities was completed at the end of 2005 which resulted in some 30,000 buildings being listed.
There are over 500 conservation areas in Wales. They are designated by local planning authorities for their special architectural and historic interest.
The designation of a conservation area is not an end in itself. Local authorities need to develop policies which clearly identify what features of the area should be preserved or enhanced, and set out how this can be done.
Many authorities have undertaken conservation area character appraisals which identify areas where enhancement through development may be desirable. Including conservation area policies in the local authority’s statutory Development Plan is the best means of integrating conservation areas with wider planning policies, such as those concerned with shopping and traffic management.
Contact individual local authorities for further details on specific conservation areas.