Conservation areas

One of the great assets of the Vale of White Horse is its fine inheritance of historic towns and villages. Many of these town and village centres have been designated as conservation areas to protect their special character and the contribution that they make to the wider character of the Vale.

Conservation Areas were introduced by the Civic Amenities Act of 1967, to protect areas of special interest as opposed to individual buildings. Since 1967 some 8,000 conservation areas have been designated in England, including 52 in the Vale of White Horse District.

Under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 local authorities have a duty to designate conservation areas and from time to time to review the boundaries.  Such areas are defined as ‘areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’.

Conservation area appraisals provide clarity on the special interest of such areas. These documents should be consulted when change is proposed affecting conservation areas and their settings in order to preserve or enhance their character or appearance. Published appraisals can be found on this page and maps of the conservation areas can be found on the Maps of conservation areas in the Vale page.

Policies which seek to preserve or enhance the special character of the council's 52 conservation areas, are contained in the Vale of White Horse District Council’s Local Plan, 2011 and emerging Local Plan 2032.

The effects of conservation area designation

Conservation area designation is the means of recognising and protecting all the features that contribute towards the special character or appearance of the conservation area. Extra controls apply in conservation areas.

Some of these are given below:

  • Preservation and enhancement

Under planning legislation the local planning authority has a duty to 'pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area'. This is mainly carried out through the development management application process, through good design and managed change. Regular repair and maintenance of properties, trees and spaces by local residents and statutory undertakers is encouraged.

  • Minor works that would not normally need planning permission outside a conservation area may need planning permission in a conservation area. These changes include certain types of cladding, inserting dormer windows, and putting up satellite dishes which are visible from the street.
  • Control over demolition

Unlisted buildings, in groups or individually, can often contribute towards the character of a conservation area and the loss of these buildings can be detrimental.

For this reason, planning permission is required for the substantial or total demolition of certain buildings exceeding 115 cubic metres. There are exceptions and therefore advice should be sought from the council regarding the demolition of a building or structure such as a wall, within the conservation area. Application forms are available on the council's website, the Planning Portal or by request.

  • Control over trees

Within conservation areas trees are given special protection. Written application for consent must be made to the council giving six weeks notice of intent to top, lop, or fell a tree over 75mm (3 inches) in diameter, measured at 1.5 metres above ground. This period of six weeks must be given for the council to either approve the application or to serve a Tree Preservation Order. Certain trees are exempt such as dead, dying or dangerous trees and some fruit trees. For more information on tree work applications, please visit our Forestry team website page or telephone 01235 422600.

  • Biodiversity

Conservation Areas are often notable for their biodiversity value. Protected species and habitats need to be addressed when reviewing buildings, sites and planning works.

  • Power to seek repair of unoccupied buildings in conservation areas

Special powers to serve an Urgent Works Notice are open to the council 'if it appears that the preservation of a building is important for maintaining the character or appearance of that area'.

  • Reduced permitted development rights

Some minor developments which do not require planning permission outside a conservation area will need permission in a conservation area, including for example the insertion of new dormers, roof extensions and cladding. The size and locations of extensions are also subject to stricter controls. Satellite dishes on a building may require consent, depending on their size and location. Further clarification and advice can be obtained from the planning department.

  • Restrictions on outdoor advertisements

Certain categories of advertisement which have ‘deemed consent’ under the Advertisement Regulations, are restricted within conservation areas. Further clarification and advice can be obtained from the planning department.

  • Planning permission

Planning applications in conservation areas should be accompanied by sufficient details to enable the impact of the proposed development on the character of the conservation area, to be assessed. This includes details of scale, massing, design and materials of buildings and their relationship to existing buildings and the impact on their setting. Applicants are required to describe the significance of all assets affected by development, proportionate to the proposal. This should be done through Heritage Appraisals and Impact Assessments or as part of a Design and Access Statement.

  • New development in conservation areas

Conservation area legislation helps to ensure that the natural process of renewal and change in rural and urban areas is managed, to preserve and enhance the best of the past and allow for sympathetic new development. The council looks very carefully at the design of new development and has policies in its Local Plan which seek to carefully control changes in conservation areas. Where planning permission is required, proposals are advertised on site and in the local press.

  • Repairs and maintenance

In conservation areas owners of buildings are encouraged to repair and maintain their properties without loss or damage to their character or integrity. Repairs should be considered as the preferred option, with replacement only where it would enhance the character or appearance of the conservation area. Historically correct solutions should be adopted, using appropriate design, materials and construction methods to match the original.

  • Designation or alteration of conservation areas

Consultation is an important part of the designation process. Local opinion is sought prior to the designation or alteration of conservation areas and suggestions and comments are welcomed. Notice of a newly designated or altered conservation area is publicised in the London Gazette, a local newspaper and registered in the Local Land Charges Register.

If you are in any doubt as to whether or not planning permission is needed please contact our Planning Service using the contact details section of this page.

For more information for owners of properties in conservation areas, see the Historic England website !

Conservation area appraisals

Undertaking conservation area appraisals offers an opportunity to re-assess the designated area and to evaluate and record its special interest. The Vale has already undertaken five conservation area appraisals (listed below, and see downloads section of this page). Note that the new boundaries defined in the conservation area appraisals supersede those marked on the Local Plan maps.

  • Northcourt Conservation Area, Abingdon
  • Wytham Conservation Area
  • East Hendred Conservation Area
  • Bourton Conservation Area
  • Cumnor Conservation Area
  • Milton Conservation Area

Milton Conservation Area Appraisal and boundary review. 

The consultation period for the Milton Conservation Area Appraisal and boundary review was held from 5 September – 17 October 2016.

The proposed boundary extension and appraisal document were adopted by Cabinet on December 2nd 2017. 

You can read the adoption statement here and view the appraisal and boundary map through the links on this page.

Current consultations

There are currently no public consultations on Conservation Area Appraisals.

Article 4 Directions

What is an Article 4(1) Direction?

The General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) allows for a range of alterations to be undertaken to residential dwellings without the need for planning permission.  These works are known as ‘permitted development’ as they are deemed to have planning permission already granted by the GPDO.  An Article 4(1) Direction is the mechanism by which the Local Planning Authority can remove permitted development rights granted by the GPDO.  In those cases, planning permission is required for all works specified in the Direction.

There is one Article 4(1) Directions effective in Abingdon.  The direction specifically covers Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 16 Thames Street in Abingdon.  Works requiring permission as a result of the direction are: Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 Part 1, Schedule 2; Class A – The enlargement, improvement or other alteration of a dwelling house and Part 2, Schedule 2; Class C – The painting of the exterior of any building or work.

This Article 4(1) Direction was served in 1995 on land already considered to be of special interest as it lies within the designated conservation area.  This is the reason for serving an Article 4(1) Direction is to preserve those characteristics that contribute strongly to the special group interest of a place that would otherwise be harmed by works deemed to be permitted.

If you have any questions about the Article 4(1) Direction please email or call a member of the Conservation Team at Vale of White Horse District Council on 01235 422600. There are also other Directions that affect agricultural land and areas of open space that are not specifically related to conservation area. For enquiries about these directions, please speak to a member of the Planning Service.



Last reviewed: 21 - 05 - 2019

Was this page helpful?YesNo