HTF welcomes the launch of the conservation area campaign

Chair designate of English Heritage, Baroness Kay Andrews OBE Chris Winter, Director of the Historic Towns Forum (HTF) represented the Forum at the launch of the 2009 English Heritage Heritage @ Risk in London today and welcomed the campaign to improve the care of Conservation Areas.

The survey of the state of conservation areas across England carried out by English Heritage supported the Forum's call for local authorities to make more use of the tools already available to them.

"Designation of a Conservation Area is very much the beginning of the process, not the end." said Sam Howes, Deputy Chief Executive at Chichester District Council and Chair of the Historic Towns Forum. "If designation is to result in real improvements to the character or appearance of an area then it must be matched by a commitment to positive management and the use of additional controls where appropriate. One such additional control which Local Planning Authorities seem reluctant to use is the Article 4(2) Direction to control permitted development rights for dwellings".

"The Historic Towns Forum commissioned a study of the use of Article 4 Directions* and has discovered that:

  • Over 80% of local authorities surveyed had Article 4 Directions covering all or part of their Conservation Areas;
  • Directions can be applied either selectively to certain properties or cast across the entire Conservation Area to capture all potential permitted developments;
  • Over two thirds of Directions have been made since 1995, when the need to secure the Secretary of State's approval was removed from certain categories;
  • The introduction of such controls does not necessarily mean an increase in applications because residents know that if they apply there is a strong likelihood that they will receive a refusal;
  • None of the Local Authorities surveyed reported any incidents of compensation being claimed as a result of removal of permitted development rights".
"The evidence suggests that introducing controls alongside positive management arrangements can provide Local Authorities with the tools to enhance their Conservation Areas and that the time and resources required to do this is not as onerous as some believe". The HTF will continue to work with English Heritage and others in the sector to support local authority officers and elected members, and to build confidence in the use of these tools and to promote the care of streets, as well as buildings. Street clutter and a plethora of lines and signs is as detrimental to historic areas as uPVC windows and satellite dishes can be, underlining the need for all disciplines to work together to achieve better quality places. These issues and heritage protection will be the key themes of the Annual Conference which will be held in Chichester on October 21-23.

* RPS Planning "The Use of Article 4 Directions" 2008 (Director: Andrew Dick).