Conservation Areas

Definition, management and regulations relating to conservation areas.


What is a Conservation Area?

Conservation Areas "are areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance". S.61 Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997

There are over 600 Conservation Areas in Scotland and 32 in Argyll and Bute alone.

Conservation Areas are crucial to the conservation of our environment. They can cover historic land, battlefields, public parks, designed landscapes or railways but most contain groups of buildings extending over areas of a village, town or city. To safeguard them for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations any new development should preserve or enhance their varied character.

A list and maps of all our Conservation Areas can be found here.

How are they designated?

Under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act of 1997 the local planning authority is required to determine which parts of its area are of special architectural or historic interest. It may designate these as conservation areas. The public will normally be consulted on any proposal to designate Conservation Areas or to change their boundaries.

Designation of a Conservation Area depends on a number of factors from architecture, the design of individual buildings and historical importance to economic and social influences.

How are Conservation Areas safeguarded and enhanced?

This is achieved through defining the character that merits protection and the use of appropriate development management control.  The character can be defined through the preparation of Conservation Area Appraisals and appropriate development control can include control over;

  • Development, demolition and advertising
  • The space between buildings and green spaces
  • Protection of trees
  • Interpretation schemes, through leaflets or signage
  • The implementation of enhancement schemes based upon Conservation Area Appraisals.

Designation as a Conservation Area does not place a ban upon all new development within its boundaries. However, new development will normally only be granted planning permission if it can be demonstrated that it will not harm the character or appearance of the area. Some planning authorities choose to require positive enhancement through good quality design rather than creating a neutral effect.

What are Conservation Area Character Appraisals and Management Plans?

A Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan is a management tool which helps to identify the special interest and changing needs of an area.  It is intended to be used by applicants, agents and the planning service to manage change in a conservation area in a positive way.

Not all Conservation Areas in Argyll and Bute have Conservation Area Appraisals, but there is an on-going programme to produce more. Our Conservation Areas have been reviewed and prioritised so that the delivery of Conservation Area Appraisals is in the order of those areas most in need.  This need is normally aligned to an area's need for economic regeneration, the principle being that improved management and enhancement of an area goes hand in hand with economic growth.

If an area does not have a Conservation Area Appraisal the council’s planning and conservation staff will still be aware of the special and distinctive character of the area when assessing proposals. 

The following Conservation Area Appraisals are available:



Helensburgh (Upper and Hill House)

Rothesay Town Centre



Easdale Island


What needs planning permission?

Major changes to the rules governing which alterations and extensions to dwelling houses and flats require planning permission were introduced on 6 February 2012.

As a result of the new rules most types of alterations and extensions to property within conservation areas require planning permission.  This covers all extensions, the installation of replacement windows and doors, satellite dishes, roof lights, solar panels, forming parking spaces, exterior painting and many other types of work.

If you are thinking about carrying out any works please contact your local Development Management team to confirm whether your property is within a conservation area and if you will need to make an application.

Interior works will not need permission, UNLESS the building is also listed, in which case you will need to apply for Listed Building Consent.

Further permitted development rights may have been affected or removed through the use of Article 4 Directions, Argyll and Bute has Article 4 directions in the following areas:

  • Cove and Kilcreggan Conservation Area
  • Iona Conservation Area
  • Tarbert Conservation Area
  • Rothesay Conservation Area
  • Port Charlotte Conservation Area
  • Hill House, Helensburgh Conservation Area
  • Rosneath Conservation Area
  • Rhu Conservation Area
  • Iona
  • Luss Conservation Area (part) please contact the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park planning authority for planning enquiries
  • Cardross Conservation Area (part)

Please contact your local Development Management team to confirm if you will need to make an application.

To submit a planning application, please visit this page.

New development in a Conservation Area

When considering applications for new development in a Conservation Area, the Council’s priority is to have regard for the special architectural, historic, or other qualities which have led to the designation of the area.

New development is not necessarily resisted; however it must seek to preserve or enhance the character of the area.  This is achieved through high quality design and a high quality specification of materials, either those that reflect the local building vernacular or new materials and forms that complement rather than detract from the area.

The Council has prepared several design guides to assist applicants and agents when considering new development:

Argyll and Bute Sustainable Development Series:  

  • Working with Argyll and Bute’s Built Heritage
  • Small Scale Housing Developments
  • Larger Scale Housing Developments
  • Case Studies: Sustainable materials and techniques
  • Isle of Tiree Sustainable Design Guidance
  • Isle of Coll Sustainable Design Guidance

Historic Scotland has also produced guidance on New Design in Historic Settings. 

If you would like any further advice on how developments can be sympathetic to a Conservation Area please contact the planning department in the first instance.

Demolition in a Conservation Area

Proposals for demolition within a Conservation Area can often mean the loss of character and in most cases these proposals will be resisted.   Local and national policies relating to the demolition of listed buildings are applied to the demolition of unlisted buildings in a Conservation Area, for more information on this please see our Listed Buildings page.  Demolition of an unlisted building within a Conservation Area may require a specific application for Conservation Area Consent.

Trees in a Conservation Area

Trees often contribute significantly to the character of conservation areas. It is an offence for any person to cut, lop, top, uproot, wilfully damage or destroy any tree in a conservation area unless six weeks' notice has been given to the planning authority. This gives the planning authority time to consider making a Tree Preservation Order. These orders exist for individual or groups of trees which are seen as giving amenity value to the community. The felling or lopping of trees which are subject to a Tree Preservation Order requires the consent of the planning authority.

If you are contemplating any works to a protected tree or trees or to find out whether a tree is protected, please contact the local planning office.

Responsibility for the management of trees, including protected trees, always rests with the owner of the land upon which they stand. We have powers to protect trees which make an important contribution to the visual amenity of an area. Protection of trees through negotiation and agreement is the preferred first option.

However, where concerns are raised that a tree or trees may be wilfully damaged or destroyed, a Provisional Tree Preservation Order may be made under the terms of the Town and Country Planning Act.

The statutory powers available to us for the protection of trees are:

  • Tree Preservation Orders (TPO)
  • Trees within designated Conservation Areas
  • Trees protected by a condition as part of a Planning Consent.

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