Conservation areas

One of the great assets of South Oxfordshire District 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 district.

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 72 in South Oxfordshire 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’.

The main attributes that define the special character of an area are its physical appearance and history, i.e. the form and features of buildings and the spaces between them, their former uses and historical development.  Where there are a number of periods of historical development, the character of individual parts of the conservation area may differ.  Contrasts between the appearance of areas and the combination of buildings of various ages, materials and styles may contribute to its special character.

In some instances, areas that either contribute little, or are even detrimental to the character of the conservation area, are included within the boundary because of their potential for enhancement.  It is important that the council carefully balances the benefits of potential enhancement against the possibility that the inclusion of such areas may be perceived as devaluing the status of the conservation area as a whole.

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 via the links to the left side of this page.

Policies which seek to preserve or enhance the special character of the council's 72 conservation areas, are contained in South Oxfordshire District Council’s Local Plan.

There are also some Conservation Areas which have an additional level of control called an Article 4 direction.  This protects the facade (sometimes front and rear) of the property from works which may otherwise be permitted, but that have the potential to harm the special interest of that specific area. 

To find out if you're in a conservation area, or if a property has listed building status, use the interactive map below:

Conservation and listed buildings map

Last reviewed: 11 - 10 - 2017

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