Area in front of the red brick Corn Exchange is fenced off and a digger is removing the top level of the pedestrianised precinct. People make their way behind the construction in the sunshine.

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Regeneration of Lincoln’s Cathedral and City Centre Conservation Area is centred on the old Corn Exchange. Repairs are in progress, helping to create a lively new street scene © Historic England Archive DP261418

Heritage at Risk: Conservation Areas

Conservation areas are places in villages, towns and cities which are especially valued by local communities for their historic character and associations. What makes them special is the combination of buildings, streets, spaces and archaeology which we enjoy, work and live in.

Like other elements of our environment, they change over time, in both positive and negative ways.

Change in conservation areas can be negative either through inappropriate new development, neglect or deliberate damage. Negative change can have a real effect upon the way the community thrives, or feels about their area. When conservation areas become at risk, this can signify or contribute to an area's social or economic decline.

The current situation

In 2019 there are 501 conservation areas on the Heritage at Risk Register: 15 conservation areas were added to the Register in 2019, whilst 14 have been removed for positive reasons.

Historic England provides assistance and encouragement to local authorities to help assess as many conservation areas as possible.

Gathering data on the condition and trend of conservation areas, as well as the main threats they face, helps Historic England to gain a clearer picture of how these important places and areas are sustaining themselves.

Brick building with shops at ground level and period features on upper floors. Showing signs of damp on the brickwork. A large plant is growing in a gutter at the top of the building.
Grand Quarter, Leeds, was added to the Register in 2019. At the northern extremity of one of Leeds’ main shopping streets, it has suffered from unauthorised works to shopfronts, underuse and loss of architectural detail © Historic England Archive DP233989

The continuing challenge

The reasons why conservation areas become at risk are complex and varied, depending on their situation.

It remains unclear how the nation's economy will be affected following the decision to leave the European Union, although rising construction costs and a reduction in the availability of heritage skilled labour may have an impact. Our urban centres continue to be areas where problems are commonly identified.

Picturesque villages and rural landscapes continue to be affected by changes in farming practices. These can cause buildings and other structures to be neglected, and conservation areas to become at risk.

The work of addressing problems in conservation areas can be time consuming. Nevertheless, progress is being made, contributing positively to a sustainable future for England's unique rural and urban heritage.

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