Conservation and heritage
Our conservation and design officers are a part of the planning specialists team. They are responsible for:
The historic environment
The historic environment is everything that has been created by people over time. It makes a difference to everyone’s lives, as it shapes our identity and culture and tells us about the past while pointing to the future.
We are responsible for the care of the historic environment and the promotion of heritage issues and understanding within the Wycombe area.
Elements of the historic environment are also known as heritage assets.
Heritage assets include buildings, monument, site, place, area or landscape identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions, because of its heritage interest.
The definition includes designated heritage assets (Listed buildings, conservation areas, registered historic parks & gardens and scheduled monuments) as well as assets identified by the local planning authority (including local listing).
Conservation is an active process of maintenance and managing change to heritage assets in a manner appropriate to the significance of the heritage asset. It requires a flexible and thoughtful approach to get the best out of assets as diverse as listed buildings in everyday use and as yet, undiscovered, undesignated buried remains of archaeological interest.
Whether your property is listed, in a conservation area or simply an older building, practical advice on its maintenance and repair can be found on Historic England's website
One of Wycombe’s greatest assets is its attractive built inheritance. The council has a duty to assess and review whether particular parts of Wycombe should be designated as conservation areas in order to safeguard its distinctive character.
There are 61 conservation areas in Wycombe, which range from small rural groups of buildings to town centres.
A conservation area is a group of buildings whose character, interest and history make them worthy of special protection and enhancement. The main attributes that define the special character of an area are its physical appearance and history, including the form and features of buildings and the spaces between them, their former uses and historical development.
Conservation areas are designated and protected under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.
Conservation area designation is the means of recognising and protecting all the features that contribute towards the special character or appearance of the conservation area. Extra controls apply in conservation areas.
These controls include:
- higher standards of design to preserve or enhance the special character of the property or wider area
- removal of some permitted development rights
- control over demolition
- control over trees
- restrictions on outdoor advertisements
- requiring a heritage asset statement / design and access statement with any planning application
Permitted development rights are slightly different in conservation areas compared to other areas. You can check if planning permission is required by using our service here.
If you are considering any works to a property that is located within a conservation area, we strongly encourage that you use our Planning Advice Service.
You can view all Conservation Areas on MyMaps by selecting the Planning Policy map category using the '+', and selecting the 'conservation area' layer by ticking the box.
More information on Conservation Areas in Wycombe can be viewed below. The accompanying character surveys provide clarity on the special interest of each area and provide guidance when changes are proposed. The studies are supplementary planning documents and will be taken into account when making relevant planning decisions.
Conservation areas within the Wycombe district
There are more than 1200 listed buildings in Wycombe. As well as houses and cottages, listed buildings include structures such as bridges, walled gardens, memorials and gravestones.
A building is listed when it is of special architectural or historic interest and therefore worth protecting. Listed buildings are designated and protected under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.
There are two types of listing:
- nationally listed buildings - designated by Historic England
- locally listed buildings - designated by us
Buildings are listed for a number of different reasons which include:
- architectural or historic value
- associations with historic figures or events
- construction method or technological advancements
- value as part of a group of buildings or remarkable street-scene
Decisions as to which buildings are listed are taken by the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.
The National Heritage List of England is managed by Historic England, the national body responsible for listing, planning, grants or heritage research and advice.
Listed buildings are graded to show their importance:
- Grade I - buildings of exceptional interest and national importance
- Grade II* - buildings of particular importance (more than special interest and regional significance)
- Grade II - buildings of special interest and local importance
You can find information on each listing by using the List Search.
Local heritage lists play an essential role in identifying and reinforcing local character and distinctiveness. Buildings and monuments that do not meet the criteria for national listed but are considered important to Wycombe’s architectural and historical interest, may be included on a Local List.
The Wycombe Local List is set out in the document below:
Unlike the national list, locally listed buildings are not graded to show their importance.
You can find out if a property is listed nationally or locally on MyMaps
by selecting the Planning Constraints
map category using the '+' and selecting the 'listed buildings' layer by ticking the box.
A listing covers the whole of the building, unless there are specific exclusions in the list description. This means that the listing protection covers:
- the historic structure itself
- the interior including the internal floor plan and layout, surfaces and components such as doors, windows, staircases, chimneys and decorative features
- attached fixtures and fittings such as fireplaces, fixed cupboards and furnishings, external lamps and signs
- pre-1948 buildings and structures within the curtilage
The list descriptions may be a useful starting point for understanding the special interest of a building. However these are generally intended to help with identification only and it should not be assumed that they provide a detailed summary of the important elements of a building.
Development that potentially affects the setting of the listed building will also be taken into consideration in planning decisions.
Listing means that there are extra controls over what changes can be made to a building’s interior or exterior. The listing of a building does not necessarily mean that it must be preserved without any form of alteration, extension or change of use to suit modern requirements.
Work which affects the character also includes alterations to the fabric of the building such as roofs, walls, ceilings and floors, windows and doors and decorative features. The use of artificial materials such as aluminium and plastic is not generally acceptable while sealed unit double-glazed windows, even in timber, are often equally inappropriate. The use of traditional styles, materials and construction methods is strongly encouraged.
Routine repair and maintenance do not normally require consent, provided that the materials and workmanship match the original work. However, consent may be required where repairs involve alteration, or the extent of the work is such that it affects the building’s character.
It is essential that any work which affects the character of the building is only carried out after listed building consent has been obtained from the Council. It is a criminal offence to carry out unauthorised works to a listed building and works may be subject to enforcement and/or prosecution. All applications must be supported by a Heritage Statement.
If you are considering works to your listed building, and you're unsure whether this would be acceptable. We would advise that you use our Planning Advice service.
Local listed buildings do not enjoy the same level of statutory protection afforded to nationally listed buildings. However, local listing strengthens the case for the retention of a historic building and means that the significance of the building is a ‘material consideration’ in the planning process. This means that the council must consider the impact of any proposed development on the building’s special character.
For further information see Historic England’s good practice guide for Local heritage Listing.
Registered historic parks and gardens
Parks and gardens of particular historic interest are included on the register compiled by Historic England. There are nine registered historic parks and gardens within Wycombe.
Sites include the grounds of large stately homes to small domestic gardens, as well as other designed landscapes such as town squares, public parks and cemeteries. The emphasis is on the designed landscape rather than botanical interest.
Registration strengthens the case for their protection and is a material consideration in the planning process. This means that the council must consider the impact of any proposed development on the building’s special character.
You can find out if a property is Listed (nationally or locally) on MyMaps
by selecting the Planning Policy
map category using the '+' and selecting the 'parks and gardens of historic interest' layer by ticking the box.
Archaeology is the study of human activity through the analysis of artefacts and records. This is usually buried information such as prehistoric standing stones and burial mounds but also includes medieval abbeys, abandoned villages and farmsteads to more recent sites such as collieries.
There are several scheduled monuments and areas of archaeological interest in Wycombe.
A scheduled monument is an historic building or site that is included in the Schedule of Monuments kept by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The regime is set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.
This listed process is known as 'scheduling', where nationally important archaeological sites and monuments are given legal protection. The scheduling process is managed by Historic England.
Any work to a designated monument requires scheduled monument consent (external website).
You can view scheduled ancient monuments on MyMaps by selecting the 'Planning Policy' map category (using '+') and selecting the 'ancient monument' map layer.
For other local sites of archaeological interest, Unlocking Buckinghamshire's Past (external website) has a database of archaeological sites, historic buildings and landscapes in Buckinghamshire.
Archaeology is looked after centrally across the county, our specialists will be consulted on all planning applications and development which have the potential to affect known archaeological remnants or deposits.
For further information on archaeology in Buckinghamshire please see Buckinghamshire County council’s website.
Please see our Frequently Asked Questions for more information relating to the historic environment and how this affects your property.