There are 69 conservation areas in Northumberland – find out where they are, why they’re special and why you need permission to change them.
Areas with 'special character'
Conservation areas are places of special architectural or historic interest with character or appearance which is desirable to preserve or enhance.
How are they designated?
These areas are designated by local authorities who assess the ‘specialness’. A conservation area recognises, protects and celebrates areas of special character to protect the area and its features.
Before we review a present conservational area, or designate a new one, we consult a range of local groups and people. We’re required to give notice of this in a local newspaper and the London Gazette.
What defines ‘special character’ in a conservation area?
A conservation area will typically have a concentration of historic buildings, but its character and interest can come from 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, trees
- street furniture, e.g. 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, which create a distinctive sense of place, a feature that’s wholly protected.
There are more than 8,000 conservation areas in England, with 69 in Northumberland.
Conservation area management strategies
Two strategies have been adopted to ensure change in the area is managed to maintain or strengthen architectural or historical qualities:
Maps and appraisals
Northumberland conservation area maps
The Northumberland conservation area maps can be viewed by settlement in the PDF below, or on the interactive digital map
Northumberland conservation area appraisals
Character appraisals identify the things that make up the special character for each settlement. These are used when making decisions about the areas in the future. View them in the PDF below:
Development in a conservation area
The council can monitor change to ensure areas are preserved or enhanced. This isn’t to stop change, but to protect special characteristics.
New development proposals
New developments can be sympathetic to the architectural and aesthetic qualities of an area, particularly when the design contributes positively to the character, distinctiveness or significance.
A successful proposal will be one that takes into account:
Alterations, repairs and extensions
- the significance of nearby assets and contribution of their setting
- the general character and distinctiveness of buildings, spaces, public realm and the landscape
- landmarks or other features
- the diversity or uniformity in style, construction, materials, detailing, decoration and period of existing buildings/ spaces
- the topography
- views into and from the site and surroundings
- green landscaping
- the current and historic issues in the area
To maintain and protect the area, care needs to be taken during alterations, repairs and extensions. This is to ensure they do not detract from the area’s appearance.
You need permission to make changes, including but not exclusively:
- certain types of cladding
- inserting dormer windows
- putting up satellite dishes visible from the street
Even small changes can detract from the area's character, so all need to be carefully considered. This could include use of original timber for windows or doors when repairing/replacing.
Property owners are encouraged to retain and repair surviving historic features and replace inappropriate/ poorly detailed replacement fittings/fixtures.
An Article 4 (2) direction is usually applied over an area, and works by removing permitted development rights on certain types of minor alterations or extensions. It only usually relates to parts of a building facing a street or public footpath, but can cover the rear of buildings or developments such as sheds.
The council can make further restrictions, depending on alterations and their effect.
- putting up porches
- painting the outside of a house a different colour
- changing distinctive doors, windows or other architectural details
- changing to boundaries
These restrictions are registered as a local land charge so you are aware of their existence.
Article 4(2) directions exist for conservation areas in:
If you’re planning a minor development in one of these areas, you may need planning permission. If your property is covered by an Article 4 direction and you’re not sure whether you need permission, check with development management
prior to work beginning.
We must have a good reason for making these restrictions and take account of public views before doing so. We may also have to pay compensation in circumstances where you cannot obtain planning permission for development which otherwise would be permitted.
Planning permission is required for all work identified in Article 4 direction.
We require more detail for planning applications related to conservation areas than normal applications.
Most should include:
Demolishing a building/ structure
- a plan with the application building/ site clearly marked
- a brief description of proposals
- fully detailed ‘before and after’ drawings of external elevations affected by the proposal
- a landscaping scheme (if relevant)
- a heritage statement of the effect of the proposal on character and appearance. View guidance on compiling a heritage statement here.
Since 2013 planning permission has been required for demolition of a building in a conservation area.
Subject to some exceptions, trees are protected in conservation areas in a similar manner to those under a tree preservation order. Therefore, if you wish to fell, lop or top, or uproot a tree in a conservation area, you must give us six weeks’ notice in writing. It is an offence if you carry out work during that period.
Strict rules apply on the type and size of advertisements in conservation areas put up without consent.
A series of design guides contain policy and guidance to assist in preparing designs which respond well to local character. The council uses these when determining applications.
Help and advice
Help and advice for residents who wish to carry out works within a conservation area.
We can offer advice on:
- the needs for permission
- our procedures
- what should be submitted with an application
- matters that should be taken into account in deciding an application
provides information and training to those who make decisions about the historic environment, as well as helping local authorities to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of areas.
We would encourage anyone wishing to carry out development to seek pre-application advice
before submission. It is beneficial for proposals with the potential to impact on heritage assets or their setting.
These discussions can increase the probability of success and, in some cases, may substantially reduce the burden of the consent process.
Preparing a planning application
Because of the need to make sure development in conservation areas is of a high standard, it is recommended that all but the simplest works are carried out by professionals.
The links below give contacts for such professionals:
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. Contact us for advice on this.