A Conservation Area is ‘an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’. Local Planning Authorities have a duty under the Act to designate areas of special architectural or historic interest. The Council is also under a duty to review existing Conservation Areas, ‘from time to time’ and to formulate and publish proposals for their preservation and enhancement.
Conservation Areas are not single buildings, but groups of buildings and areas which have special architectural or historic significance. For designation, the significance need not be at a national level: local interest is sufficient. Because the designation covers an area, significance can include the spaces between buildings and natural features. Topography, the historic layout of roads, paths and boundaries and landscape features such as gardens, parks and greens, trees and street furniture can all contribute to its significance.
Conservation Area designation does not prevent development from taking place but is a tool to help manage change. The aim of management is to protect the significance which led to the designation and ensure that development preserves or enhances that special interest. In exercising their planning powers, local planning authorities must pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of Conservation Areas.
Conservation Areas are an important part of the England’s heritage, representing a cross section of the best surviving examples of different phases and types of development from residential to industrial areas, open spaces and town centres. Conservation Areas foster local identity and can be catalysts for social and economic regeneration. Historic areas are now extensively recognised for the contribution they make to our cultural inheritance, economic well-being, and quality of life. They contribute to the quality of urban spaces and add unique character to the places where we live. They add to our cultural identity and to local distinctiveness.
 Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 Section 69. Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1990/9/part/II