Glastonbury’s Conservation Area will soon have extra protection against insensitive development. This has come about because of a formal Appraisal of the Conservation Area last year that was enabled by a £1,000 grant from the Conservation Society.
At the town council’s request, Mendip District Council will serve an “Article 4 direction” to Glastonbury under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995, to give its full title.
This means that owners of all buildings in the Glastonbury Conservation Area will have to apply to the council before making any alterations that may damage the historical and architectural character of the building, and therefore that of its neighbourhood.
The rules are similar to the planning restrictions already in place on individually listed buildings. Unlisted buildings, however, will not incur the usual application fee when seeking planning permission under Article 4.
Maintaining the character of Glastonbury is important for posterity, as well as for tourism, which depends on the singular atmosphere of the town. To achieve this, the rules will aim to restrict development to that which will enhance the area’s special character, protect the quality of the environment and encourage the use of local and traditional skills and building materials.
One key change that Article 4 hopes to prevent is the replacement of timber windows by modern PVC, which heritage officers cite as having a “potentially immense” impact on the house. Removal of boundary walls and walls separating gardens to enable off-street parking will also be opposed, as will “inappropriate” roof alterations and other sorts of “unsympathetic and uncharacteristic change”.
An Article 4 direction is usually brought in without a public consultation, or else some property owners would rush to make potentially damaging alterations before the new rules came into effect. However, alterations made before Article 4 is in effect will not need to be reversed. Works to improve energy-efficiency of homes will continue to be encouraged within the new guidelines.
A leaflet giving details about Article 4 and how it will be enforced will be posted by Mendip to owners of all properties affected. See the Conservation Society website for more information (glastonburyconservation.org.uk).
Glastonbury Conservation Society at its inception 40 years ago was the moving force that led to the designation of the original Conservation Area in 1976, protecting the Abbey, High Street and immediately adjacent shops. In 1992 it was extended to encompass the Tor, Chilkwell Street, Bushy Coombe and surrounding areas. A further small extension during the 2011 Appraisal took in more of Benedict Street.
Article 4 came into existence in an Act of Parliament in 1990 but it was rarely used, not particularly effective, and difficult to apply because it always required approval of the Secretary of State. The 1995 order streamlined it, so that many more councils across the country introduced Article 4 directions.
In Mendip, Wells is so far the only area with Article 4 in effect; others are under consideration. South Somerset has Article 4 directions at Wincanton, Bruton and Castle Cary. One comes into force in Bath in July 2013.
New rules covering buildings in Glastonbury’s designated Conservation Area — unlisted buildings as well as listed ones — came into effect on August 2 in 2012.
Mendip District Council mailed a pack to all property owners in the Conservation Area giving details. On the day — despite rain and impossibility of holding an umbrella while tying string — conservation officers fixed official notices on lampposts throughout the Conservation Area.
Owners now require planning permission to make any change to the front of their property that will affect the character of the neighbourhood.
Article 4 is part of the Town and Country Planning Act, dating back to 1990. Bringing it into effect in Glastonbury was one of the recommendations of the formal Appraisal of the town’s Conservation Area carried out last year.
The Appraisal would have been cancelled in the council’s budget cuts, but a £1,000 grant from the Conservation Society enabled it to go ahead. The Conservation Society at its inception 40 years ago was the moving force that led to the designation of the Conservation Area to begin with, back in 1976.