Recent circumstances have led me to reconsider the role of the Conservation Area as part of the control of quality development.
I had always considered it as a designation of the value of an area of historic, architectural and visual merit which needed conservation although not of preservation as commonly understood. That is as most people understand it although clearly there are even weaknesses here due partly to relaxation of legislative standards.
For instance the design of a shop front fascia can apparently only be rejected due to its overall size (depth) and lighting, whereas I had thought that colour, design and graphics were just as important to maintain the quality of an area.
It is very true that as time has passed the depth of control has diminished, especially when even the Minister responsible regards planning as an unfortunate hindrance to development.
It has recently been suggested to me that a local area in Winchmore Hill be promoted to Conservation Area status and my first reaction was that the inherent architectural and townscape quality of the area was not sufficient to warrant it and we would be diminishing the status of Conservation Area. But, given the current lack of regard for controls, it struck me that this designation might at least give the Council Officers and those in support of maintaining some form of quality more power to administer higher standards.
This is a bit of a “sledge hammer to crack a nut” approach but with the current Central Government lack of appetite for planning we may be forced to arm ourselves in this way.