What is a Conservation Area?

Conservation areas exist to manage and protect 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.

How is a conservation area designated?

Most conservation areas are designated by the Council as the local planning authority. 

Find out more about how they're designated and managed.

What does designation mean?

In conservation areas there are some extra planning controls and considerations in place to protect the historic and architectural elements which make the place special.

Find out how being in a conservation area can affect you.

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.

Read our blog about six amazing conservation areas

Make the most of conservation areas

If your local conservation area intrigues you, you could:

  • Look up Conservation Area Appraisals on your local authority’s website to learn more about the area’s unique character
  • Look up listed buildings on the National Heritage List for England and consider enriching The List yourself with your own photos and insights about these special places
  • Look up your local history group or the national amenity societies and get involved in their activities
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

Further guidance

Visit our page on Living in a Conservation Area for details on obtaining consent and opportunities for grant aid.

Research on the value of conservation areas

Research by the London School of Economics has found that people value living in conservation areas. This is evidenced by properties in conservation areas having higher prices and greater price appreciation, even after adjusting for location and other factors that affect prices. For more information on this research see: Value of Conservation Areas.

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