A tale of two cities: conservation area appraisals for major historic towns

A tale of two cities
A tale of two cities

A tale of two cities conservation area appraisals for major historic towns

The production of Conservation Area Appraisals for large historic towns and cities is the subject of a paper delivered by Dr Jon Burgess at the EHTF seminar at Cityscape 2007. It looks briefly at the guidance given by English Heritage and draws on the examples of appraisals which Jon has undertaken in Cambridge and Norwich.

Historic towns are highly complex organisms and the desire to protect their essential characteristics has led to the designation of large conservation areas which have frequently been extended. As a result, the boundaries generally encompass areas of different character and often varying quality.

The Cambridge and Norwich appraisals seek to deal with these issues in different ways. Cambridge looks at the 'macro' scale in some depth, focusing on the numerous issues which affect the historic core as a whole, before zooming into the micro scale to produce concise appraisals for each street and space. In Norwich, after defining the importance of the city centre as a whole, the city was subdivided into 13 distinct character areas with detailed appraisals produced for each one.

A key aspect of both appraisals is the way in which relevant information can be extracted quickly from a document with sufficient analytical content to meet current best practice. Ensuring that policies and management guidelines cover the whole historic centre where applicable, but are also capable of being focused to specific areas and key characteristics, is an important aspect of both documents. Readability, high graphic and illustrative content, flexibility and ease of extracting information have therefore helped to ensure that such appraisals should be useful tools for years to come and not just a 'tick in a box' exercise.

Dr Jon Burgess, Director
QuBE Planning Ltd