The story of Conservation Areas

The idea of Conservation Areas first became codified in law in 1967 as part of the Civic Amenities Act. The first area to be designated was the town of Stamford in Lincolnshire which appears in several films.

Improvements to the law were made in The Town and Country Planning Act of 1971 and a specific act for Conservation Areas was passed in 1990: The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act.

According to the 1990 Act, a Conservation Area is ‘an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.’ While there are many such areas across the country, the Act also seeks to protect the integrity of conservation by asking Local Authorities to take care in choosing appropriate areas to designate.

Local Authorities also have the responsibility of managing the Conservation Areas they designate. You will find detailed Conservation Area appraisals for each area on your Local Authority’s website. Every LA has at least one Conservation Area under their protection.

There are now around 10,000 Conservation Areas in England with a combined area that exceeds that of Luxembourg. The largest Conservation Area is Swaledale and Arkengarthdale in Yorkshire which itself is larger than some small countries!

The south west has an abundance of Conservation Areas. Wiltshire (246) and Cornwall (146) have more designations than any other county while Devon has its fair share too, divided between its Local Authorities.

When an area is first designated as a Conservation Area, the Local Authority will conductive extensive research and consult widely with the people who live and own property within its bounds. Some LAs may decide to place restrictions on the permitted development rights that would otherwise apply.

Conservation Areas, Listed Buildings and Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs)

Conservation Areas, Listed Building status and TPOs are all ways to protect England’s history and culture. But whereas TPOs and listed buildings apply to specific trees and buildings respectively, a Conservation Areas can cover anything from parks and gardens to stone walls, town centres and street layouts. It can even cover abstract concepts such as the historical way in which a plot of land has been used.

A Conservation Area applies to everything within a designated area, including trees and buildings, but every area is subject to different rules and processes.

Can Conservation Area home or business owners control trees on their land?

Each LA manages its Conservation Areas in a unique way so there is no ‘one size fits all’ rule.

Therefore, whether or not a tree currently has a TPO, home and business owners in Conservation Areas should always contact the LA’s planning office for permission to fell or change the appearance of all but the smallest of trees.

If you do need to fell or prune a large tree in a Conservation Area you don’t want to risk calling out the cowboys. You are ultimately responsible for any trees on your land and if a mistake is made to a tree that is eligible for a TPO, you could be fined thousands of pounds (or an unlimited amount if that tree later dies).

For your peace of mind, we strongly recommend you contact a professional, accredited tree specialist like Arborcure. We will carry out a professional tree survey and manage your tree in line with TPO legislation and any other Conservation Area protections.