Conservation areas

What is a Conservation Area?

A Conservation Area is defined as "an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which is desirable to preserve or enhance". 

While buildings, both listed and unlisted, make a large contribution to an area's distinctive character or appearance and usually form the basis of the conservation area, the designation recognises that that buildings do not exist in isolation but are part of a larger whole.  The historic layout of roads and paths, characteristic building and paving materials, public and private spaces, greens and trees and the different uses of a building all contribute to the charm and look of a historic area.

The designation of a conservation area by the Council introduces additional planning controls that are intended to ensure that any alterations do not detract from an area's character or appearance and to conserve or improve the "special interest" of an area.

Darlington has 17 Conservation Areas:

Some of these Conservation Areas are currently undergoing Character Appraisals.

Effects on Owners and Residents

In normal circumstances, householders have certain permitted development rights to carry out certain minor works to their properties, such a the erection of garden buildings, front porches or satellite dishes.  However in a conservation area these rights are much reduced.  For example:

  • The consent of the Local Planning Authority is required for the demolition of buildings, whereas in normal circumstances, only notification is required.
  • The removal of boundary walls, fences and gates would require permission.
  • The pruning or felling of trees requires six weeks prior notification.
  • Any alterations to front elevations may require permission.
  • Applications for proposals that affect the character or appearance of the area need are advertised in local newspapers.
  • Any new developments (including extensions) would be expected to in keeping with the character of the area.

It is an offence not to comply with these requirements.

Living in a Conservation area: a guide for residents [pdf document]

Effects on Businesses

Whilst it is understood that businesses need to clearly indicate their location and display their function, it is essential that, in a Conservation Area, frontage presentation, signage, lighting, use of colour, relationship of ground floors to upper floors are all given due consideration.   

How do I apply for Conservation Area Consent?

Conservation Area Consent for demolition within Conservation Area is now dealt with as part of planning applications.

Conservation Areas at Risk

Since 2009, Historic England [external link] has collected data annually from Local Authorities on the condition of their Conservation Areas in order to obtain a national picture of how they are faring.

Darlington currently has three Conservation Areas at risk:

  • Northgate
  • Victoria Embankment
  • West End

The Council has a duty, through decisions made on planning applications within Conservation Areas, to ensure decisions have a positive or neutral impact on the Conservation Area under section 72(2) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. In Conservation Areas identified as being At Risk a positive impact on the Conservation Area will be sought, where appropriate.

English Heritage has produced a Frequently Asked Questions document about Conservation Areas at Risk [pdf document, external link]