Conservation areas are dynamic, changing places that have evolved and developed over many years. They are made up of a variety of different heritage assets - buildings, landscapes, archaeology, and the spaces in between that form the all-important public open spaces and streetscape in which people meet and go about their business.
They are also vulnerable to change, some of it for the better but sometimes with the potential to do lasting damage to their special character, impacting on the social and economic life of the communities to which they belong.
Recent research by the London School of Economics has found that properties within conservation areas are likely to sell for, on average, 23% more than houses outside of conservation areas showing the value that people place on character and heritage.
However, the research also showed that conservation areas at risk are likely to have reduced house prices relative to other conservation areas. This is true even after adjusting for other factors (e.g. location) that affect prices.
The Current Situation
The number of conservation areas at risk hasn't changed since last year with 6.6% of those conservation areas surveyed by English Heritage considered to be at risk. However while some have been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register, other conservation areas have been added and eight new entries appear on the latest Register
Over the last few years local Authorities have been completing surveys about the condition of their conservation areas, which is helping English Heritage to build up a really good national picture of the condition of these special places and what is needed to halt their further decline.
Almost 8,000 conservation areas have now been surveyed, which is approximately 80% of all conservation areas in England.
The Challenge Ahead
One single factor is rarely sufficient to put a conservation area at risk. More frequently it is an accumulation of small problems that collectively begin to erode the character of the area.
A significant number of conservation areas cover town and city centres, areas which are suffering as a result of the struggling economy and changes in retail patterns such as internet shopping.
The current economic climate means that even simple maintenance of buildings and spaces is being squeezed by tighter budgets and cumulatively, this will have a huge impact on the condition and quality of our conservation areas.