Why bother?

Conservation officers must sometimes wonder why they bother.

Presumably, the point in writing guidance relating to development in conservation areas is to encourage the use of design and materials which respect local character and to discourage the use of those which do not.

An inspector, however, has sanctioned the retention of uPVC horizontal cladding in a Lincolnshire conservation area in the face of a supplementary planning document seeking traditional materials, reasoning that there were examples of the use of similar materials nearby (DCS Number 400-023-766).

The site was within the Humberston Fitties which, the inspector noted, covers an extensive area of holiday chalets close to the Humber estuary. The Fitties had grown since the 1920s, he recorded, and most plots contained some form of single storey chalet. He acknowledged that a supplementary planning document, produced in 1997, provided advice on how improvement works to the chalets should be carried out, in order to preserve and enhance the essential character of the conservation area. He observed that there were still a number of chalets that retained their original external timber boarding and roofing, remarking that some of these had charm and unquestionably helped to define the character and significance of the conservation area. He recognised that the installation of the uPVC boarding at the appeal property did not conform to the guidance in the supplementary planning document, which advocated the use of timber boarding, and he accepted that the uPVC boarding might be different from the original appearance of the chalet. Nevertheless, he reasoned that there were other examples in close proximity where similar materials had been used. In this context he decided that the works had very little effect on the character or appearance of the conservation area.

In a Sussex conservation area, meanwhile, an inspector dealing with an appeal against the refusal of planning permission for uPVC replacement doors (DCS Number 400-023-805) took a different view:

“I noted the presence of UPVC windows and UPVC French doors within a good proportion of the wider terrace. However, no evidence has been provided to me that indicates that the other UPVC windows and French doors installed in the area have the benefit of a planning permission or otherwise. Their presence is not in itself sufficient justification to allow the replacement of the current timber French doors with new doors that… lack the refined proportions and detailing that exist in the current traditionally constructed French doors.”

Furthermore, he reported, “I have seen no reasoned justification as to why further erosion of this impressive terrace, through the loss of the existing wooden French Doors… should be allowed.” He concluded that the development would not preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the conservation area.

Here, we prefer the second inspector’s line of thinking. Otherwise, poor development breeds poor development, and the conservation officer is left thinking “Why bother?”

Section 4.3756 of DCP Online concerns alterations to unlisted buildings in conservation areas and section 4.242 concerns conservation areas decision-making.