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Making a 21st Century home in a Conservation Area
Highgate falls within four boroughs – Barnet, Camden, Haringey and Islington. Each of these boroughs has declared their part of Highgate a Conservation Area. There are also many 'Listed' buildings in Highgate which, together with open spaces such as Pond Square, Highgate and Queens Woods and Waterlow Park, contribute much to the character of this special village. (See sketch and links below to establish which borough a particular property is in). Highgate is protected through the planning system, to pass on this heritage to future generations by means of Conservation Areas, Listings and Article 4 directions, as explained below.
Preserving the special character of Highgate does not mean that the buildings cannot be energy efficient, warm or well ventilated. Many of the homes were built for the lifestyles of previous eras, where most of the rooms would have been cold by today’s standards and have little lighting. As lifestyles evolved, houses went through layer after layer of updating with bathrooms, central heating, abundant lighting and broadband being added. Today’s next essential upgrade is energy efficiency - to maximise comfort and to minimise energy bills and carbon emissions. Getting the right advice before embarking on improvements can result in a warm and energy efficient home, whilst retaining the heritage of an historic house.
A Conservation Area is an area with special architectural or historic interest protected by law, and obliging owners to obtain additional planning approvals. Nearly all of the roads in this map are in a conservation area. For further details including precise borough boundaries, local listings and article 4 directions follow the links below:
The Highgate Boroughs
1. Barnet Conservation Areas click here
2. Camden Conservation Areas click here
2a Holly Lodge Conservation Area click here
2b Dartmouth Park Conservation Area click here
3. Haringey's Highgate Conservation Areas click here
4. a) Islington (Highgate Hill/Hornsey Lane Conservation Area) click here
b) Islington (Whitehall Park Conservation Area) click here
How is a conservation area designated?
Historic England explains how an area is designated “Most conservation areas are designated by the Council as the local planning authority. English Heritage can designate conservation areas in London, where we have to consult the relevant London Borough Council and obtain the consent of the Secretary of State for National Heritage. The Secretary of State can also designate in exceptional circumstances - usually where the area is of more than local interest.”
And what does designation mean for property alterations?
Historic England again “If you live in or run a business from a property in a conservation area you may need permission from the Council before making alterations such as cladding, inserting windows, installing satellite dishes and solar panels, adding conservatories or other extensions, laying paving or building walls. As the Council can change the types of alterations that need permission by making Article 4 Directions, it is advisable to contact the Council before making arrangements to starting any work.”
Individual buildings considered to be of special architectural or historic interest are placed on a statutory ‘List’, which provides protection, whilst imposing further conditions on alterations. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is responsible for the historic environment of England. It takes the final decisions on listing a building, and the ‘Grade’, which determines (increasingly more onerous) conditions for alterations.
“Grade I buildings are of exceptional interest, sometimes considered to be internationally important; only 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade I
Grade II* buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest; 5.5% of listed buildings are Grade II*
Grade II buildings are nationally important and of special interest; 92% of all listed buildings are in this class and it is the most likely grade of listing for a home owner.”
The DCMS sponsors English Heritage to maintain ‘the List’ of buildings and to provide a property search facility The National Heritage List for England. Historic England says that: “Listing helps us acknowledge and understand our shared history. It marks and celebrates a building's special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system so that some thought will be taken about its future.” Guidance on the implications of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 on your Listed building is available from the Planning Portal.
Locally Listed Buildings
Again Historic England is the prime source to explain what these are: “the fact that a building or site is on a local list means that its conservation as a heritage asset is an objective of the NPPF” [National Planning Policy Framework]. “In deciding any relevant planning permission that affects a locally listed heritage asset or its setting, the NPPF requires amongst other things that local planning authorities should take into account the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of such heritage assets and of putting them to viable uses consistent with their conservation. They are also obliged to consider the positive contribution that conserving such heritage assets can make to sustainable communities including their economic vitality.”
Barnet's Locally Listed buildings - click here
Camden's Local List - click here
Haringey’s Locally Listed buildings - click here for pdf document called ‘register of local listed buildings of merit’.
Islington's Locally Listed buildings (definition) - click here
Local Article 4 Directions
The Historic England explanation is that “An Article 4 direction is made by the local planning authority. It restricts the scope of permitted development rights either in relation to a particular area or site, or a particular type of development anywhere in the authority’s area.” And latest Government guidance is that “local authorities should consider making article 4 directions only in those exceptional circumstances where the exercise of permitted development rights would harm local amenity, the historic environment or the proper planning of the area.”
Design guidance under Article 4 directions is published in addition to general guidance policies for Conservation Areas for each borough, but is very rare across Highgate, examples being Whitehall Park in Islington and Holly Lodge Estate in Camden, .
Barnet's Article 4s - click here
Camden's Article 4s - click here
Haringey's Article 4s (none in Highgate) - click here
Islington's Article 4s - click here
Conservation hand in hand with Carbon Reduction
To reduce carbon emissions from existing homes we either need to reduce fuel use or to generate power from non fossil sources – such as the sun and wind. Homes in Conservation and article 4 directionAreas, even Listed homes can all make changes to reduce their energy and carbon use.
Fuel can be reduced by insulating walls, floors and roofs, closing heat leakages and installing efficient heating systems, and care should be taken to choose contractors who know how to work with the original building to maintain ventilation and moisture management. Domestic renewable power can be electricity generated from solar PV, or micro wind. Renewable heat includes solar thermal panels, air source or ground source heat pumps that heat water, reducing gas bills.
Where particular measures could affect the look of a heritage home, there are always other measures that can increase comfort and reduce carbon emissions, such as siting solar panels away from the street. Any change to the appearance of homes in a Conservation Area requires planning permission, based on Government and Greater London Authority policies that are interpreted by the Local Authorities.
The Government department responsible for Planning and for Building Regulations is the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). It's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states the Core Planning Principles for Local Authorities to interpret and discharge, including:
“support the transition to a low carbon future in a changing climate, ......, and encourage the use of renewable resources (for example, by the development of renewable energy)” - para 17 6th bullet
“conserve heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of this and future generations” - 10th bullet
” To help increase the use and supply of renewable and low carbon energy local planning authorities should recognise the responsibility on all communities to contribute to energy generation from renewable or low carbon sources. They should:
- have a positive strategy to promote energy from renewable and low carbon sources;
- design their policies to maximise renewable and low carbon energy development while ensuring that adverse impacts are addressed satisfactorily, including cumulative landscape and visual impacts.” - at para 97.
The Greater London Authority is the strategic authority with a Londonwide role to design a better future for the capital. The London Plan 2011 states:
“Development affecting heritage assets and their settings should conserve their significance, by being sympathetic to their form, scale, materials and architectural detail.” - Planning decisions Policy 7.8 Heritage assets and archaeology Strategic D
The Local Authorities including the Highgate boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Haringey and Islington interpret these heritage and carbon reduction measures, and protect Conservation Areas. For further info for building regulations and planning policies across the boroughs in Highgate see the Sustainable Homes planning guidelines and building regulations page.
FURTHER SOURCES OF ADVICE FOR WORK IN A CONSERVATION AREA
The organisations here provide valuable information regarding the heritage or energy opportunities for typical Highgate properties that are undergoing improvements.
1. The Victorian Society - the champion for Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England and Wales.
2. The Georgian Group – “Our consultee status gives us an opportunity to comment constructively on proposals and to help owners, architects and planning authorities towards better solutions.”
3. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) ‘aims to help owners of old buildings by providing training, technical advice and publications.’
4. Historic England includes advice about:
Sustainable Homes Updated Jan 2017