Conservation areas

What is a Conservation Area?

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

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

Questions that people have asked

Do I Live in a Conservation Area?

Darlington has 17 Conservation Areas:

Some of these Conservation Areas are currently undergoing Character Appraisals.

What effect does designation have?

Designation of a Conservation Area by the Council introduces additional planning controls.  These are intended to ensure that any alterations do not detract from an area’s character or appearance, to conserve or improve the “special interest” of an area.

Permitted development rights on many residential properties and business premises allow people to carry-out work without the need to obtain planning permission, such as the erection of garden buildings, front porches or satellite dishes.  Furthermore it is understood that businesses need to publicise their premises and function.  However in a Conservation Area these rights are reduced.  For example, an application may be required for the following works:

For business premises it is essential that signs, lighting, use of colour and relationship of ground floors to upper floors respect the character or appearance of the Conservation Area, especially on road frontages where businesses are grouped.

Applications that would affect the character or appearance of a Conservation Area must be advertised in local newspapers.

It is an offence not to comply with the current regulations.

What is the character of a Conservation Area?

The design of new buildings and alterations would be expected to be in keeping with the character or appearance of the Conservation Area.  The Council has adopted Character Appraisals for many of its Conservation Areas as a guide to what contributes to the character that has developed throughout their history.  They define:

  • what influences have given the area its peculiar character;
  • what aspects of the area contribute positively to the character;
  • what has suffered damage or loss that would be worthy of reinstating;
  • features or sites that might be improved by redevelopment or enhancement;
  • features that make a negligible contribution to the area;
  • how management would support the aims of Conservation Area designation;
  • landscape features and potential for tree planting.

Contacts and Advice

Further information on Conservation Area Character Appraisals is available from:

Historic England, Advice Note 1 [external link]

Darlington Borough Council Historic Assets Officer, email: [email protected]