Planning Portal

Conservation Areas: FAQs

Use the map or the A-Z list to select a Conservation Area.
    This page aims to answer some frequently asked questions on Conservation Areas.

    What is a Conservation Area?

    Many of our cities, towns and villages contain areas of architectural or historic interest which have a particular character considered worthy of conservation.
    A Conservation Area is an area deemed by the Department to be of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve and enhance, as designated under Article 50 of the Planning (NI) Order 1991.
    Great importance is attached to the preservation of the existing character and appearance of such areas allied to the promotion of their economic well-being.

    Does designation as a Conservation Area put the protection of the special architectural or historic interest of an area over its vitality and viability?

    The Department does not wish to stifle development in Conservation Areas.
    The emphasis will be on careful control, positive management of change and positive enhancement, to enable the area to remain alive and prosperous, but as the same time to ensure that any new development accords with the area’s special architectural or historic interest.
    Designation as a Conservation Area put an onus on prospective developers to produce a very high standard of design which respects or enhances the particular qualities of the area in question.
    However, notwithstanding the acceptability of the proposal in terms of other planning issues, where any proposed development would harm the character, appearance or setting of a Conservation Area it will not normally be permitted.

    What type of applications do Conservation Areas apply to?

    The designation of a Conservation Area affects applications for all types of development proposals, including:
    • new developments and proposals for extensions to existing properties,
    • advertisements and
    • demolition of a building within the Conservation Area.
    Each application will be assessed on how it will positively enhance the Conservation Area.

    What other statutory protection is afforded by Conservation Area status?

    The demolition of even a single building within a Conservation Area and construction of a new building or buildings in its place could result in the character or appearance of a Conservation Area, or part of it, being severely prejudiced.
    In these circumstances the whole purpose of designating a Conservation Area could be undermined. Therefore were the demolition of a building within the Conservation Area occurs the Department will normally pursue direct court action.
    A person guilty of such an offence is liable on summary conviction on indictment to an unlimited fine. In determining the amount of the fine on conviction on indictment the court shall have particular regard to any financial benefit which has accrued or likely to accrue to the offender as a consequence of the offence.

    Does Conservation Area status have controls over anything other than building within the designated area?

    Trees in a Conservation Area are automatically protected as if a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) was in place.
    However, in a Conservation Area, anyone proposing to carry out works on trees must serve on the Department six weeks notice of the intended works. The notice should contain sufficient information to identify the trees, details of proposed works and reasons.
    The Department has six weeks in which to respond and work should not commence until the Department has commented, or the six weeks has expired, whichever takes place first. If the Department considers the proposed works should not be carried out, it can make a formal TPO.
    It is a criminal offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully destroy or damage a tree in a manner likely to destroy it, without the Department’s consent, and, on summary conviction you could be fined up to £30,000 (and on conviction on indictment, to an unlimited fine). In determining the fine, the Court may take into account any financial benefit which appears likely to have accrued as a result of the offence.
    It will also be the duty of the landowner to plan replacement trees of appropriate size and species in the same location as soon as reasonably possible.
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