Conservation areas

also known as: Historic buildings.

There are 69 conservation areas in Northumberland – find out where they are, what makes them special & why you need permission to make any changes within them.

Conservation areas

Conservation areas are areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.

Conservation areas are designated by local authorities who assess the ‘specialness’ against local and regional criteria.

The council designates conservation areas to recognise, protect and celebrate areas of special character. It is about protecting the area and the features that contribute to its character, as well as protecting individual buildings.


When the council reviews any of the present conservation area boundaries, or decides to designate a new conservation area, we consult a range of local groups and people who live, work, visit, or own properties in an area.

We are required to give notice of an intended designation through a notice placed in a local newspaper and the London Gazette.

What makes the special character of a conservation area?

A conservation area will typically have a concentration of historic buildings, but the area’s special character and interest can come from many other factors including:

  • views in and out of the area
  • historic layout of property boundaries and roads
  • character and architectural style
  • social and historic associations
  • how people experience places at different times of day and night and seasonally
  • locally important buildings
  • characteristic building materials
  • open spaces, green areas, parks and gardens, and trees
  • street furniture, eg lamp posts, bollards, seating
  • colours and textures
  • local distinctiveness and sense of place

Character can also draw on more abstract ideas such as sounds, environmental conditions and historical changes. These things combine to create a distinctive sense of place which is protected as a whole.

There are over 8,000 conservation areas in England and there are 69 in Northumberland.

Two conservation area management strategies have been adopted as Supplementary Planning Documents:

They seek to ensure that change in these conservation areas is managed in ways which maintain and, if possible, strengthen their special architectural and historic qualities.

Northumberland conservation areas

There are 69 conservation areas in Northumberland. These can be viewed by area below, or on the Interactive digital map under the environmental tab.

Character appraisals identify the things that make up the special character of each conservation area. They can be used to make informed decisions on future development proposals within the conservation area, ensuring that they enhance the character of the area.

Character appraisals have been prepared for following conservation areas:

Development in a conservation area

The council has extra controls in conservation areas to make sure that change is managed so that the special character of the area and its setting are preserved or enhanced. These controls are not designed to stop change but to protect those features which make the place special and desirable to live in.

New developments should be sympathetic to the special architectural and aesthetic qualities of the area, particularly the extent to which the design of new development contributes positively to the character, distinctiveness and significance of the conservation area.

A successful scheme will be one whose design has taken account of the following characteristics of the surroundings, where appropriate:

  • the significance of nearby assets and the contribution of their setting
  • the general character and distinctiveness of the local buildings, spaces, public realm and the landscape
  • landmarks and other features that are key to a sense of place
  • the diversity or uniformity in style, construction, materials, detailing, decoration and period of existing buildings and spaces
  • the topography
  • views into and from the site and its surroundings
  • green landscaping
  • the current and historic uses in the area and the urban grain.

Some or all of these factors may influence the scale, height, massing, alignment, materials and proposed use in any successful design.

To maintain and protect the conservation area, care needs to be taken with any alterations, extensions, repairs and maintenance work to properties. This is to ensure that the changes do not detract from the area’s appearance.

You will need to get permission to make some changes that would be permitted outside of a conservation area, including but not exclusively:

  • certain types of cladding
  • inserting dormer windows
  • putting up satellite dishes which are visible from the street.

Even small, often incremental, changes can detract from the special character of an area so they need to be considered, eg original timber windows and doors should be repaired where possible, or replaced with new ones to match the originals in materials used and design details.

Property owners are encouraged to retain and repair surviving historic features and replace inappropriate and poorly detailed replacement fittings and fixtures.

If you live in a conservation area and would like to make any changes to your property, please see the Help and Advice section below.

An Article 4 Direction is a special planning regulation adopted by a Local Planning Authority. It is usually applied over an area rather than to an individual property and works by removing permitted development rights on certain types of minor alterations and extensions. It often only relates to those parts of a building which face a street or public footpath or open space, but can cover alterations and extensions at the rear of buildings or developments such as sheds in back gardens.

The council can make further restrictions on the kind of alterations allowed, depending on how they might affect the key elements of buildings in the conservation area.

Examples might be:

  • putting up porches
  • painting the outside of a house a different colour
  • changing distinctive doors, windows or other architectural details
  • changes to boundaries
  • chimneys

These restrictions are registered as a Local Land Charge so that you will normally be aware of their existence.

Article 4(2) Directions exist for the following conservation areas in Northumberland:

  • Berwick-upon-Tweed, Blyth (Bath Terrace), Holy Island, Longhirst, and Whalton.

If you are planning a minor development in an area with an Article 4 Direction you may need to apply for planning permission. If your property is covered by an Article 4 Direction and you are not sure whether the work you are proposing needs planning permission, please check with the council Development Management team before any work starts.

These Directions are not issued without careful consideration. The council has to have good reason for making these restrictions and must take account of public views before doing so.

The council may be required to pay compensation in circumstances where you cannot obtain planning permission for development which otherwise would be treated as permitted development.

Planning permission is required for all work identified in the Article 4 Direction. View the application form and guidance here.

We require more detail for planning applications within and next to conservation areas than with a normal planning application.

Most applications in a conservation area should include:

  • a plan with the application building or site clearly marked
  • a brief description of the proposed works
  • fully detailed and clearly labelled ‘before and after’ drawings of all external elevations affected by the proposal, including its relationship to adjacent buildings
  • a landscaping scheme (if relevant)
  • a Heritage Statement of the effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the conservation area. View guidance on compiling a Heritage Statement here.

Design guides and guidance documents

A series of design guides were produced by the former district and borough councils in Northumberland. They provide useful guidance and will be kept under review.

The design guides contain policy and guidance to assist developers, retailers, design professionals and building owners, to prepare designs which respond well to local character.

The council uses the design guides to help assess the quality of proposals when determining applications for planning permission.

The guides also help in determining applications for grant assistance (where applicable).

Historic England also produces guidance on streets and public open spaces - see Streets for All.

Since the introduction of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 on 1st October 2013 planning permission is now required for demolition of a building in a conservation area.

If you are in doubt about whether demolition is involved, please see the Help and Advice section below.

Generally there is a presumption in favour of retaining buildings which make a positive contribution to the character or appearance of the conservation area.

Subject to some exceptions (including small trees and ones that are dead or dangerous), trees are protected in conservation areas and are treated in a similar manner to those covered by a Tree Preservation Order.

Therefore, if you wish to fell, lop or top or uproot trees within a conservation area, you must give the council six weeks’ notice in writing. It is an offence to carry out the work within that period without the consent of the council.

Visit our tree page for more information.

If you would like to speak to someone about trees in a conservation area, please the contact the Tree and Woodlands Officer:

  • phone: 0845 6006400

Stricter rules apply in conservation areas regarding the type and size of advertisements that can be erected without advertisement consent.

View and download application forms here.

Help and advice

Help and advice is available for residents who are carrying out works on property within a conservation area.

We can provide advice if you are considering carrying out any works on property within a conservation area.

This includes:

  • the need for permission
  • our procedures
  • what should be submitted with an application
  • matters that will be taken into account in deciding an application.

The following organisations can also offer further advice and information

  • Historic England provides information and training to help those who make decisions about the historic environment as wellas helping local authorities use their powers and resources to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of their conservation areas.

We would encourage anyone wishing to carry out development to seek pre-application advice before submitting a planning application.

There are many benefits of early engagement in pre-application discussions.

Early engagement is particularly beneficial for proposals with the potential to impact on heritage assets or their setting.

Pre-application discussions can increase the probability of a successful application and development outcome and in some cases may substantially reduce the burden of the consent process or even eliminate it entirely.

Pre-planning application advice is available for anyone wanting to carry out development in a conservation area, such as building work or changing the use of land or a building.

This is informal guidance from officers of the council before you submit a planning application

Because of the need to make sure that development in conservation areas is of a high standard, it is recommended that all but the simplest work is handled by a suitably qualified professional with appropriate experience.

The links below give contacts for finding an architect, chartered surveyor or building conservation professional:

The current conservation area legislation is contained in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

The practical interpretation of this is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

Grants may be available in some parts of the county.

Please contact us for advice on whether grants could be available for your work: