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1.1. This South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) on Development Affecting Conservation Areas forms part of the South Cambridgeshire Local Development Framework (LDF).
1.2. The SPD expands on district-wide policies in the Development Control Policies Development Plan Document (DPD), adopted in July 2007, and policies in individual Area Action Plans for major developments that may vary from the district-wide policies. It provides additional details on how they will be implemented. Policies seek to ensure that Conservation Areas are adequately addressed throughout the development process.
1.3. The policy builds on Planning Policy Guidance for Conservation Areas as set out in Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) note 15: Planning and the Historic Environment (September 1994). The draft Heritage Protection Bill is likely to introduce changes to the way the historic environment is protected in England when it is implemented. As a consequence, it may result in a review of Planning Policy Guidance note 15 to support the new Heritage Protection legislation, at which time this SPD will need to be updated.
1.4. Conservation Areas are defined as 'areas of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance' (Section 69 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990). South Cambridgeshire is a district comprising over 100 villages and contains over 80 Conservation Areas; as a result the majority of historic village cores are also designated as Conservation Areas.
1.5. The aim of this Supplementary Planning Document is to provide additional advice and guidance on developments affecting these Conservation Areas and to expand on the broad policy set out in the Development Control Policies DPD Policy CH/5 and PPG 15.
1.6. Specific objectives of this document are to:
Assist applicants’ understanding of whether Conservation Area Consent is required to undertake proposed works;
Assist applicants’ understanding of the local historic context, help identify features of importance to the character of Conservation Areas, and ensure that proposed developments are appropriately designed to preserve and, where possible, enhance their character;
Assist applicants to gain Conservation Area Consent and / or planning permission quickly by informing them what information is required to accompany planning applications to justify their proposals and demonstrate what impact they would have on the character of the Conservation Area;
Ensure that development is undertaken in an appropriate manner to avoid harm to the character of the Conservation Area.
1.7. Development proposals in or affecting Conservation Areas will be controlled by the following policy in the Development Control Policies DPD:
Planning applications for development proposals (including applications for Conservation Area Consent for demolitions) in or affecting Conservation Areas will be determined in accordance with legislative provisions and national policy (currently PPG 15), together with the local policies set out in Supplementary Planning Documents and guidance contained in specific Conservation Area Appraisals (where they exist) and the District Design Guide.
1.8. When considering Planning Applications for Developments in Conservation Areas PPG 15 offers the following guidance:
Paragraph 4.14 of PPG 15 states: ‘Section 72 of the Act requires that special attention shall be paid in the exercise of planning functions to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of a Conservation Area. This requirement extends to all powers under the Planning Acts, not only those which relate directly to historic buildings. The desirability of preserving or enhancing the area should also, in the Secretary of State's view, be a material consideration in the planning authority's handling of development proposals which are outside the Conservation Area but would affect its setting, or views into or out of the area.’
Paragraph 4.19 reinforces this and states: ‘The Courts have recently confirmed that planning decisions in respect of development proposed to be carried out in a Conservation Area must give a high priority to the objective of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of the area. If any proposed development would conflict with that objective, there will be a strong presumption against the grant of planning permission, though in exceptional cases the presumption may be overridden in favour of development which is desirable on the ground of some other public interest.’
Finally, in this respect, paragraph 4.20 states: ‘As to the precise interpretation of 'preserve or enhance', the Courts have held (South Lakeland DC v Secretary of State for the Environment,  2 WLR 204) that there is no requirement in the legislation that Conservation Areas should be protected from all development which does not enhance or positively preserve. Whilst the character and appearance of Conservation Areas should always be given full weight in planning decisions, the objective of preservation can be achieved either by development which makes a positive contribution to an area's character or appearance, or by development which leaves character and appearance unharmed.’
1.9 Development affecting Conservation Areas includes:
The construction of new buildings;
The extension of existing buildings;
The demolition of existing buildings;
The siting of advertisements;
The installation of solar panels and wind turbines in Conservation Areas;
The siting of satellite dishes in Conservation Areas;
Note: The issue of trees in Conservation Areas is the subject of the Trees and Development Sites SPD.
1.10 Development affecting Conservation Areas includes any development proposal outside the Conservation Area that would affect its setting, or views into or out of the area. The guidance contained in this SPD should be applied equally to any such development proposals.
1.11 In considering applications for such developments the District Council will seek to ensure that the development will not harm the architectural or historic character and appearance of the Conservation Area. Many historic buildings within Conservation Areas are also listed, and developments affecting these Listed Buildings or their setting should also accord with the guidance set out in the separate SPD on works to Listed Buildings.
1.12 The District Council has embarked on a programme to prepare individual character appraisals and management plans1 for all Conservation Areas in South Cambridgeshire, but given the numbers involved this process will take some time to complete. Where an appraisal exists it will identify the key characteristics of the area, as well as important gap sites, views and vistas, key buildings, walls and trees and other built or natural features. Any planning application within, or affecting, a Conservation Area will be considered against the key characteristics identified within the appraisal and the policies outlined in the management plan.
1.13 As stated in Policy CH/5, the District Council has adopted as council policy a district-wide Design Guide which also contains relevant guidance on design issues. This is due to be reviewed and updated prior to adoption as an SPD in its own right.