Newcastle City Council’s Strategic Conservation Area Management Program

In May 2010 Newcastle City Council adopted a strategy containing a series of city-wide proposals designed to begin to tackle the management of the city’s conservation areas on a more pro-active basis. Since then the council has had a dedicated Historic Environment Officer working on a series of projects designed to manage change effectively in the historic environment.
 

Background

Newcastle currently contains 12 conservation areas, which vary considerably in size and character. The issues that arise and the possible management approaches in each area are, therefore, also varied, but none are classed as being ‘at risk’. The council has, since 2004, produced and adopted Character Appraisals and Management Plans for each conservation area, and until the start date of the strategy the implementation of the management plans had been largely limited to reactive management through the planning system.

The strategy

The framework of the strategy is outlined below, along with some practical examples of work that has been undertaken in the past year. The strategy initially considers how the management of the city’s conservation areas was previously approached and how it could be improved.

Recently produced summary guides to Newcastle’s conservation areas contain a brief introduction to the areas, maps indicating all relevant heritage designations, and basic householder guidance.

It then sets out a seven-year draft work programme, based almost exclusively on one officer post. To date, year one (and all of the objectives set for this first year) has been successfully completed.

A key theme of the strategy is that conservation area management does not mean the prevention of change, or the stifling of appropriate development. The key to successful management of the historic environment is the management of change, ensuring the preservation and enhancement of the special character of the area.

The strategy contains the following vision statements, from which the subsequent objectives and projects were built.

In order to be effective and successful, conservation area management will be:

The Black Gate, with St. Nicholas Cathedral to the rear, in the Central Conservation Area. This area is in Newcastle city centre, and is currently the subject of the Old Newcastle Project.
  • Reliant on partnership working and a strong degree of ‘buy-in’ by all parties
  • Reliant on the council as a whole being aware that many of its functions can impact upon the character and appearance of a conservation area (positively or negatively), and agreeing a common agenda/approach to management in conservation areas
  • Focused on education, communication and promotion
  • Adequately funded and resourced
  • Part of an integrated, city-wide approach to the management of heritage assets.

The projects

The projects (which vary greatly in size and scope) can be grouped into the following themes: documentation and designations; plan implementation and monitoring; internal (council) partnership working; and public awareness.

In the first year of the implementation of the program, a number of achievements have been made including:

  • Community engagement work in conservation areas, including work with schools and older people’s groups
  • Raising awareness of industrial heritage in a conservation area through guided tours for Heritage Open Days and for RTPI events
  • New and updated technical guidance published relating to Conservation Areas, Listed Buildings and Repair and Maintenance
  • User-friendly conservation area summaries, which include accessible maps, descriptions of significance and brief guides to appropriate householder and new development within each area
  • Re-branded conservation area management plans which now include photographs, maps and updated policy guidance to improve public access and understanding of the documents
  • Identification of all previous management proposals in the management plans, and prioritisation of each based on resources
  • Begun process for making a new article 4 direction in a conservation area; the first new direction for several years
  • Created a new system of review in conservation areas on a rolling program prioritised in terms of need; this is based upon both the order in which the existing management plans were adopted and upon the perceived pressures within the conservation areas that may give rise to management issues and, ultimately, risk to their special character and appearance. Reviews include: positive engagement with residents from the outset; a review of the content of CAMP in general; a boundary review; making management recommendations; updating the summary version; reviewing Article 4 Direction provision; making recommendations and proposals for changes; launching a photographic record/condition survey of the conservation area; undertaking public consultation at all appropriate stages; and finally implementing a management strategy as necessary (e.g. making of new Article 4 Directions, boundary alterations).

All guidance documents, character statements and management plans, conservation area summaries and other relevant information can be accessed by the public at www.newcastle.gov.uk/hes