A conservation area appraisal is a management tool which helps to identify the special interest and changing needs of an area. An appraisal provides the basis for the development of a programme of action that is compatible with the sensitivities of the historic area and enables local authorities to fulfil their statutory duties to protect and enhance conservation areas. Appraisals also inform policy and assist development control. They provide an opportunity to educate residents about the special needs and characteristics of the area and help developers identify and formulate development proposals.
A conservation area appraisal should not be included in a local plan. It is more appropriate as supplementary planning guidance.
Local authorities are encouraged to prepare appraisals for all their conservation areas on a priority basis and in consultation with the local community.
In cases where an appraisal is required to assist the consideration and determination of a major development proposal, the developer may wish to carry out the appraisal or may be willing to pay for its independent production in order to improve the decision making process.
Conservation areas are unique. It is therefore not practical to prescribe a method of appraisal that will be applicable to all. The following checklist, however, provides a starting point for local authorities. The list is not exhaustive but can be adapted to meet the specifics of individual conservation areas and can be updated over time. The left hand column outlines elements which will be likely to form an essential part of the appraisal. Consideration of the significance and importance of each element to the conservation area is vital. The right hand column provides further suggested issues for assessment.
Before commencing the appraisal, authorities should consider the format in which it is going to be presented. Findings should be set out clearly and concisely and seek to analyse and draw conclusions rather than simply describe an area. Publication of appraisals on the internet will give further accessibility and allow for simple updating.
Many of the themes and issues addressed in an appraisal are best communicated through pictures, maps and diagrams.
Introduction, Purpose and Justification
- Date of appraisal
- Purpose of appraisal
- Date and reason for designation
- Location map showing area in context with the surrounding area (including any adjacent conservation areas)
- Boundary map
Location, History and Development
- Reasons for location - natural landforms, strategic defence, river crossing, religious foundations etc
- Regional context
- Historic pattern of land use
- Settlement development
- Planned landscapes
Character and Appearance
- Assessment of the landscape and surroundings
- The area in relation to its form and function
- Significance of views into, across and from the conservation area
Activity and Movement
- Direction, mode, volume, circulation and levels of activity
- Day & night variations
- Seasonal variations
Street Pattern and Topography
- Changes to previous street patterns and surfaces
- Way in which streets and buildings relate to ancient man-made and landscape features
Buildings and Townscape
- Scheduled monuments
- Key listed and unlisted buildings
- Buildings considered to be of townscape merit (including modern examples)
- Parks, historic gardens and designed landscapes
- Distinctive architectural style and detailing
- Building types
- Past and current uses
- Orientation and density - possibly reflecting past uses
- Types of public and private open space (advice available in PAN 65 Planning and Open Space)
- Characteristics of each area of open space - changes in level, surface materials, planting, degree of enclosure, feature or focal points
Trees and Landscaping
- Tree Preservation Orders
- Extent of tree and hedge cover
- Nature of any dominant species
- Landmark trees
- Parks, gardens and designed landscapes.
- Record and explain any different character areas - Individual policies and action plans may be required for different character areas.
- Identify any negative factors
Building by Building Analysis
- Record (in written and photographic format) details, condition and alterations at a particular point in time - this can inform decision making and provide a valuable monitoring indicator and enforcement tool
Buildings at Risk Survey
- Note vulnerable buildings that contribute to the character of the area
- Advise the Scottish Civic Trust to add to the Buildings at Risk Register
- Survival of traditional surfaces
Public Realm Audit
- Appropriateness of street furniture and signage e.g. should reflect the character of the area, be practical, be well maintained, define the area etc.
- Effect of traffic and utilities engineering - inappropriate replacement surfaces, signage clutter, visually intrusive cabling etc.
Surveys of Specific Issues
- Record aspects of distinctiveness e.g. typical shopfronts, boundary treatments, building details, materials etc.
- Highlight vulnerable areas, buildings or issues
Assessment of Significance
- Compare significance of the conservation area in the local, national and international context - this can be a useful tool when sourcing funding and considering development applications
Opportunities for Development
- Identify sites where development could enhance the special qualities of the area
- Reflect opportunities in the development plan
- Prepare briefs or design statements for particularly sensitive sites
Opportunities for Planning Action
- Assess the need for boundary refinement
- Assess the effects of permitted development
- Identify the need for the implementation or review of Article 4 Directions
- Identify need for urgent works, building repair or amenity notices
Opportunities for Enhancement
- Bring forward proposals for enhancement identified earlier in the appraisal e.g. new or restored surfaces, street furniture, planting, underground wires, traffic management changes etc.
- A strategy may include: guidance on many aspects of managing change, details of any changes required to development plan policies, funding sources and opportunities; staffing resources, briefing for specific developments or sites, links with other strategic aspirations, and details of a monitoring and review mechanism
Monitoring and Review
- Consider and put in place appropriate monitoring indicators and agree a mechanism for review. Photographic surveys are an excellent means of recording change - they can also be a useful development control and enforcement tool
For historical information, the lists of buildings of special historic or architectural interest, the inventories published by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, books in the Buildings of Scotland series, the RIAS guides, Burgh Survey and other local histories are a useful starting point. Local Authority Sites and Monuments Records provide information, particularly on archaeology, and references to further material. The National Monuments Record, held by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, includes drawings, historical photographs and aerial photographs as well as historical accounts. For some specific places there may be archives or transactions of historical societies, which are usually held in the local history section of public libraries. The National Library of Scotland Map Library has a vast collection of historical maps.