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Understanding conservation areas

Conservation areas are distinct parts of the historic environment designated by local planning authorities for their special architectural or historic interest. There are more than 500 conservation areas in Wales and they are valued as special places by those who live and work in them.

Conservation areas are rich in the physical evidence of the past. Their special interest is expressed in the character of the area and not in isolated buildings. This could be the pattern of settlement, the organisation of space and building plots, and the networks of routes, as well as the style and type of building, their materials and detailing.

This means that it is essential to manage change carefully in conservation areas to make sure that their character and appearance are safeguarded and enhanced. To achieve this, there are special controls around demolishing buildings and cutting down, topping and lopping trees.

Sometimes, there are additional planning controls to protect the historic and architectural elements that make the area special. These special controls are called Article 4 Directions. They are decided by each local planning authority depending on what particular element of the conservation area they wish to protect. They are most likely to affect owners who want to make changes to the outside of their building. These can include cladding, replacing doors or windows, and installing satellite dishes and solar panels..

These controls are not intended to prevent change; instead they encourage developments in keeping with the area or that enhance its special character. If you live in a conservation area, your local planning authority will be able to tell you if there are special controls in place and explain what permissions are needed.

Most local planning authorities prepare conservation area appraisals and management plans. These provide a detailed picture of what makes an area special and can be used as the basis for positive management and enhancement.  They are a good starting point for owners and occupiers to find out more about where they live or work.

Cadw’s Managing Conservation Areas in Wales explains more about the role and responsibilities of local planning authorities for designation, appraisal and management of conservation areas in Wales.