Heritage group calls for ‘strength & clarity’ boost for Conservation Areas

SAVE Britain’s Heritage wants more protection for historic buildings as Conservation Areas turn 50

Historic building conservation group SAVE Britain’s Heritage is calling for new laws to strengthen and clarify protection of historic buildings, streets and places in Britain’s Conservation Areas across Britain, ahead of a special debate in the House of Commons on 26th January.

The debate marks the 50th anniversary of Conservation Area designations, and the start of a year of celebrations highlighting the measures designed to protect areas recognised for their special character or history. But current measures don’t go far enough, says SAVE, arguing that “many of these unique historic areas are often at risk from unsympathetic piecemeal development”.

Conservation Areas were born after Lord Duncan-Sandys tabled a private members bill 50 years ago; the scheme has been widely heralded as “one of the greatest heritage success stories of recent decades… It ensured that residential areas and town centres kept their character and harmony, sparking a huge resurgence in urban living both in town centres and inner and outer suburbs.”

But housing shortages, rising property values and planning pressures are pushing current protections to the bring, believes SAVE, which rounds on “property interests” looking to deliver “oversized developments, which threaten and cause harm to these areas of special character.”

The group is petitioning for more “strength and clarity” in the protection for Conservation Areas, to keep pace with the needs and wants of the property and housing industry – citing Renzo Piano’s Paddington Cube, tabled to replace a “handsome” Edwardian sorting office building in W2, as a prime example of what happens when things get lax.

Robert Jenrick MP, leader of Thursday’s House of Commons debate on Conservation Areas: “I am delighted that Parliament will be holding a debate at the beginning of this anniversary year of the creation of Conservation Areas by Duncan Sandys’ 1967 Act. Conservation Areas have been one of the great examples of the power of communities working together to preserve what’s special about the places they live and love for future generations. The debate will praise the millions of people who’ve contributed to establishing and maintaining Conservation Areas and seek to focus the Government’s attention on the serious challenges they face today from new planning laws and unsympathetic development.”

Marcus Binney, Executive President of SAVE: “Conservation Area protection needs an overhaul. Cases like the Paddington Cube are stark reminders that the safety mechanisms enshrined in the current legislation is not working and the official guidelines are confusing. Increasingly Conservation Areas are under attack from proposals which are wholly alien to their character and should not be approved. An urgent review of Conservation Area protection is needed and this debate opens the way.”

The proposed “Paddington Cube”
The “handsome” Edwardian building which would be replaced by the Cube

SAVE’s petition is available to sign here