Heritage Buildings- Things to Consider

Conservation area, Home Improvement Toolkit, Listed Buildings & Planning

We are lucky to be based in two cities with rich architectural heritages, in Newcastle and York. As such, we regularly work with historic buildings, and in Conservation Areas. Working with existing buildings and their unique character and charm can be very exciting, however, the maintenance and preservation of these buildings can be a challenging task, with planning and legislative constraints that must be taken into consideration.

Planning and legislative constraints play an essential role in ensuring that heritage buildings are preserved for future generations. The UK’s planning system is designed to balance the needs of the community and the economy with the protection and enhancement of the built and natural environment. As such, there are several laws, regulations, and policies in place that govern the treatment of heritage buildings.

Listed Buildings

One of the key pieces of legislation governing heritage buildings in the UK is the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. This Act sets out the legal framework for the designation and protection of heritage buildings, including listed buildings and buildings located in conservation areas. These protections are further identified within the government document the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Listed buildings are those that are deemed to be of special architectural or historical interest and are therefore protected by law. There are three levels of listed buildings, with Grade I being the highest with Grade II* and Grade II following below. Grade I is considered the most important and is afforded the highest level of protection through the Planning system. Any work to a Listed Building (of any Grade) requires Listed Building Consent. Some examples of Listed Buildings we have worked on include White Abbey, The Old Vicarage and Garden Cottage.

York Architects- Heritage White Abbey (Grade II Listed Refurbishment)

York Architects- Heritage The Old Vicarage (Grade II Listed Refurbishment)

York Architects- Heritage Garden Cottage (Grade II Listed Refurbishment and Extension)

Scheduled Monuments

A higher level of protection is afforded under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, which protects ancient monuments and archaeological sites. Within York, there are several notable examples of Scheduled Monuments, including Clifford’s Tower, the City Walls and York Minster.

York MinsterYork Minster

Conservation Areas/ UNESCO World Heritage Sites

As mentioned above, the national legislation also covers the protection of Conservation Areas. This provides a protection across a whole area as opposed to individual buildings. There is generally more flexibility within this, though it is important to consider the key characteristics of the Conservation Area and whether any architectural proposals have a negative impact upon them. Due to the previously mentioned rich architectural heritage in York and Newcastle, large portions of both cities are located within Conservation Areas. As such, we regularly work on proposals for buildings within these designated areas. Examples of projects we have worked on in Conservation Areas include Northwood House, Huntington Road and Alpha Cottage.

Architects York- Conservation AreaNorthwood House

Architects York- Conservation AreaHuntington Road

Architects York- Conservation AreaAlpha Cottage

UNESCO World Heritage Sites are slightly different in that they are chosen and governed internationally. York has recently been reported to be in the running for World Heritage Site status, so this is likely to be immediately relevant locally in the near future. These sites are protected in planning legislation, and act in a similar manner to Conservation Areas, strengthening the importance of the area’s heritage and hence its protection.

Non-Designated Heritage Asset

A small word regarding Non-Designated Heritage Asset. These are mentioned within the NPPF, and sets out to provide protection for locally important buildings which are not listed. These are typically collated and recorded by Local Authorities. Our project at Alma Terrace was deemed by the City of York Council to be a Non-Designated Heritage Asset, and was also within a Conservation Area.

York Architects- External PhotoAlma Terrace


The legislative constraints are an important consideration, and as architects in York and Newcastle, we are thoroughly experienced in navigating these processes, however, they are only part of the picture. Equally important, are the actual design and construction knowledge related to heritage projects. This includes a knowledge and understanding of typical detailing and building typologies from the past together with an appreciation of the proportions, forms and character of historic buildings. A sound understanding of traditional construction techniques, together with how these can be modified with more modern materials is important. In particular, considerations of insulation, breathability and moisture are crucial when it comes to upgrading historic buildings.

At Carve Architecture, we have a great deal of experience and knowledge when dealing with all aspects of Heritage architectural projects. We regularly undertake conservation specific training and are able to work with our clients, local authorities and trades people to deliver stunning projects which work with and improve the historic built environment.

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