Richmondshire District Council

What are conservation areas?

Conservation areas are defined as "areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it's desirable to preserve or enhance."

These areas are important examples of our social, cultural and economic history and must be safeguarded from indiscriminate or ill-considered change.

Conservation areas often contain listed buildings, which have individual statutory protection. But it's not always enough to protect these buildings in isolation. Their surroundings and general environment are often of equal importance and conservation areas are intended to protect that environment.

We have a responsibility to ensure that the character of these areas is not diminished in our lifetime.

How conservation areas are chosen for designation

Conservation areas range from historic town centres to rural villages. Attractive and important buildings are usually the starting point for designation, but distinctive elements of history, architecture, layout or private spaces, such as gardens, parks and greens, trees or street furniture, may lead to designation. 

We have designated 41 conservation areas since 1974. The boundaries of some have since been reviewed and a number have been amended, including Richmond and Middleham.

What designation means

Within a conservation area, there are slightly different controls over the following:

  • Domestic/householder development: The rights to alter and extend private houses without planning permission are different and tend to be more restrictive in conservation areas. These include the erection of satellite dishes, dormer windows, various cladding and there is more restriction in terms of size and position of extensions that can be built without having to apply for planning permission. In Leyburn and Middleham conservation areas, additional controls have been introduced. It's always best to ask before committing yourself.
  • Trees: Anyone proposing to cut down, top or lop a tree in a conservation area, whether or not it's covered by a tree preservation order, has to give us six weeks' notice. We must then consider what contribution the tree makes to the character of the conservation area and, if necessary, will make an order to protect it. Visit our apply for tree works consent page for details.

We consult widely on planning applications affecting conservation areas and must consider the desirability of preserving and enhancing the character of that area when making decisions.


Our main body of conservation policy is the Local Plan. Policies generally seek to encourage new development that will preserve and/or enhance the character of conservation areas.

Living in a conservation area

While we're committed to preserving and protecting conservation areas, they are living communities which must be allowed to change over time to remain vital and prosperous. So the emphasis is to guide and manage development, rather than to prevent it. All new development should be sympathetic to the special architectural and aesthetic qualities of its area, particularly in terms of scale, design, materials and space between buildings. 

Design of new development 

We require very high standards of design. New development must make a positive contribution to the character of the area. We can require additional information in support of any planning application showing how the proposal will relate to its context.

This can mean:

  • The submission of elevations of adjacent buildings
  • Full details of the proposal
  • Examples of materials and colours 

Usually only a fully detailed planning application will be considered, which should be accompanied by a heritage statement.

The success of a conservation area

The ultimate success will depend very much on the care individual owners take with the maintenance and repair of their properties and in any alterations or extensions they make, especially those which don't need planning permission. 

The North Yorkshire Building Control Partnership is very careful to balance the national requirements of safety, public health and energy conservation with the more local objective of looking after the special character of conservation areas. So, for example, requirements for double glazing can be modified when applied to historic buildings.

If you'd like to make any changes to your property, or need further information, contact us.

Useful links

Follow the links for: 

A to Z of Services