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Conservation areas are areas of special architectural or historic interest, 'the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance'. Conservation area status gives the council some extra control over development to encourage enhancement of the area, but it is not meant to stifle development.
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Conservation areas are designated by the council, although the Secretary of State also has the power in exceptional circumstances. New designations, amendments and the adoption of appraisals and management plans are all subject to public consultation and committee approval.
National planning guidance is provided by planning policy statement 5 - planning for the historic environment. Specific local policies directly relating to conservation areas are set out in the Amber Valley Local Plan (2006). The borough council also has an adopted supplementary planning document: listed buildings and buildings in conservation areas (April 2007) that sets out additional policies that apply to development in conservation areas.
An article 4(2) direction changes the type of alterations that would require planning permission, in order to provide greater protection to the qualities and characteristics, which make the area special.
There is a duty to designate as a conservation area any area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which is desirable to preserve or enhance. It is a way of recognising the importance of the quality of an area as a whole. Conservation areas are designated to manage change in order to enhance conservation areas and ensure that new development preserves and enhances their character.
Conservation area consent is needed for almost any works for the demolition of all or almost any buildings within conservation area. It is also required for substantial demolition of boundary walls, fences or gates if they are more than one metre high fronting onto a highway or public right of way.
Often perfectly good original windows are removed from buildings as a way of improving energy and insulation. This is usually an unnecessary alteration that detracts from the character appearance of the building, further guidance can be found by English Heritage. It is advised that owners within conservation areas retain their original timber or metal frames. Window frames may appear to be beyond repair but at close inspection only need limited repairs or re-painting. If a window frame is beyond repair a replacement maybe carried out using materials and design that identically replicate the original windows. The use of PVC is not recommended in a conservation area. The profile of the frame cannot replicate timber and they detract form the character of the area. They are manufactured from oil, which is a non-renewable resource and require large amounts of energy in production which makes them less sustainable than wood.
Secondary glazing can be used as and alternative to the installation of new double glazing, secondary glazing retains the existing window and therefore preserves the property’s external appearance and offers considerable improvement in heat retention over single glazing. Secondary glazing ranges from simple one-season plastic film methods undertaken by householders to more permanent purpose built systems. Simple repairs to mend cracks and eliminate gaps can significantly reduce the amount of air infiltration or draughts. Research carried out by English Heritage states that air infiltration of sash windows can be reduced by as much as 86% by adding draught proofing. Using existing shutters can help cut down heat loss through windows as can the use of blinds and thick curtains.
Further information on energy saving can be found at www.english-heritage.org.uk.
Trees in conservation areas are also afforded additional protection. Six weeks notice in writing must be given to the borough council of any proposed works to prune or fell a tree in a conservation area.
Roof extensions in conservation areas require planning permission.
Conservation area designation does not convey any additional controls. Listed buildings have their own set of legal safeguards.
English Heritage have also produced a set of frequently asked questions.
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