BCD 2019

34 T H E B U I L D I N G C O N S E R VAT I O N D I R E C T O R Y 2 0 1 9 C AT H E D R A L C O MM U N I C AT I O N S FITTING IN New design in urban conservation areas EMMA LAWRENCE C ONSERVATION AREAS are places in villages, towns and cities which are designated by local authorities for the contribution they make to our built environment. What makes them special is their unique combination of buildings, streets and spaces which contribute to a strong sense of place. In urban conservation areas, change is inevitable as our urban historic townscapes are dynamic places that are constantly adapting to the needs of their inhabitants. When that change comes, good quality new design in these areas can enhance what’s already there and reacquaint us with the area’s unique importance and idiosyncrasies. 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Civic Amenities Act which first introduced the concept of conservation areas. Half a century on, there are now 513 designated conservation areas in Wales, over 600 in Scotland, and 10,100 in England which in total cover an area the size of Luxembourg. Conservation areas are often comprised of a mixture of locally important buildings, designed or natural landscapes, local and regional materials and types of construction, and historic street patterns and elements which reflect the local culture and tradition. The way in which all of these elements interact and relate is unique to each area and is often referred to as local distinctiveness, and this is what must be preserved throughout the planning process. Not only are the areas important for their local distinctiveness, they are places which likely include nationally important heritage assets. For example, of the 10,100 conservation areas counted in England in 2017, 93 per cent contain listed buildings, 19 per cent include a scheduled ancient monument and 10 per cent include all or part of a registered park or garden. In planning and heritage protection terms, conservation areas are incredibly complex places. In recognition of their complexity and importance, conservation area status A splash of modernism in the heart of Bath: Grimshaw’s Thermae Bath Spa (Photo: Thermae Bath Spa)