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50 Years of Conservation Areas

Conservation areas exist to preserve the special architectural and historic interest of a place - in other words, the features that make it unique. Every local authority in England has at least one conservation area and there are now over 10,000 in England.

To mark their 50th anniversary we’re carrying out new research and campaigning to raise awareness of conservation areas. Our aim is to influence behaviour so conservation areas are even more prized by local communities and local authorities.

On this page:

General view of Berwick upon Tweed from the Spittal showing riverside walls.
Berwick upon Tweed is a coastal town at the northerly tip of Northumberland. The conservation area includes part of the Elizabethan walls built in the 16th century against invaders from over the border with Scotland, just a few miles away. © Historic England

Did you know?

  • 2.2% of England (2,938 square kilometres) is a conservation area – that’s an area larger than Luxembourg
  • 59% of conservation areas are rural and 41% are in urban areas
  • 2.27% of England is built on, so there is a lot of open space in conservation areas
  • Wiltshire has the most conservation areas with 246 across the county. Followed by Cornwall, with 146, and the Cotswold district, with 145
  • The largest conservation area is Swaledale and Arkengarthdale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It covers 71 square kilometres and is a stunning upland landscape where the conservation area protects around 1,000 traditional farm buildings and the dry-stone walls that criss-cross the landscape. Only slightly smaller than Guernsey, there are 30 countries smaller than this conservation area. It surrounds several villages which are conservation areas in their own right.

Image of rural house surrounded by dry stone walls and fields
The Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Barns and Walls conservation area is the largest in the country. Its valleys feature an intricate pattern of drystone walls and a network of traditional stone-built barns, all of locally quarried stone. © Mr Nigel Press

Make the most of conservation areas

If your local conservation area intrigues you, you could:

For more advice on living in or making the most of conservation areas, see our tips for:

Conservation areas at risk

  • 6% of conservation areas are at risk nationally
  • The top threats to conservation areas are: unsympathetic doors or windows; poorly maintained streets, walls, fences or hedges; satellite dishes; effects of traffic management; alterations to walls, roofs or chimneys; unsympathetic new extensions; impact of advertisements; neglected green spaces.

Image of a London bus going down Holborn in London next to pre fire of London buildings in the conservation area.
The Chancery Lane conservation area in central London is a varied urban area which has been an important centre for legal practice since medieval times. It contains two important buildings which survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 (Barnard’s Inn Hall and Staple Inn). © Historic England

The economic value of conservation areas

Historic England research indicates that houses in conservation areas sell for a premium of 9% on average.

Estate agents were surveyed for their views on conservation areas and 75% agreed that a well-maintained conservation area added to property value, while 82% felt that original features added to a property’s value.

See more of our research findings

New research and public survey

This year our Heritage Counts research will focus on conservation areas. We have also surveyed the public to find out what people think about conservation areas. We expect to finish our analysis and publish results here at the end of September.

We'll be updating this page regularly with further details of these and other projects.

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