Conservation Areas are designated to ensure that change is managed in a way
that protects and enhances "the cherished local scene". In Ipswich,
additional planning controls have been Imposed in two Conservation Areas.
This ensures that such changes are in sympathy with the prevailing historic
character by requiring planning permission not normally required in
undesignated areas. These measures have generally been supported and appear
to be well understood. Planning proposals requiring consent have usually
been sympathetic to the area and been approved swiftly. When properties have
changed hands, a specific note accompanying the Local Land Charges Search
has also made the procedure clear.
In September, the Council was made aware by several local residents that the
natural grey state roof of a semi-detached villa in the Anglesea
Road/Norwich Road Conservation Area was being removed, and inappropriate
(and heavier) red concrete roof tiles were being readied for installation.
Not only would this work have required planning permission, but would
probably have had structural implications (as a consequence of the extra
weight) under the Building Regulations.
The nature of this visually inadvisable refurbishment seemed to follow the
concepts of house renovation which it was hoped had long become discredited,
particularly in a Conservation Area designated over 25 years ago! The new
owner claimed to be unaware of the restrictions made explicit in the Search
and was clearly intending to "renovate" the property quickly and resell it
- diminishing the special character in the process.
Since the Council would not have granted consent in retrospect for this
unsympathetic work, it felt obliged to threaten that enforcement action
might ensue. Fortunately commonsense prevailed and the original state roof
was reinstated shortly thereafter.
Three points are worth emphasising from this episode. Firstly, the character
of Conservation Areas is usually derived from harmonious use of traditional
materials and designs which collectively enhance the appearance, but also
make the areas attractive to live in and command a premium when they are
sold. Would anyone choose to live next door to a house, for example, covered
in crazy paving?
Secondly, the Council was heartened that local people had taken the trouble
to complain about the works as soon as they got under way. Not only was this
helpful in dealing with the works before they had become too advanced; it
suggests that the additional controls enjoy public support.
Thirdly, when things do go wrong, the democratic checks and balances of the
planning system can result in the Council's enforcement actions becoming
drawn-out by the perpetrator. In this instance the matter was resolved
expeditiously but in some other cases, where no physical remedy is swiftly
implemented, it may seem to the public that the Council is not intervening
to rectify the situation, when in practice the process is far slower than we
would wish. Fortunately, the Government also recognises this and is
currently consulting on ways of speeding, up the resolution of cases similar
to the one described here.
BOB KINDRED, Ipswich Conservation Service