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Luton Borough Council

Conservation areas

Conservation areas can be defined as "areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance".

We are fortunate in having many fine buildings and areas which are distinguished by their architecture, landscape and history, creating an attractive environment that often is the product of several different eras. These areas are important examples of our social, cultural and aesthetic history and must be safeguarded from indiscriminate or ill-considered change. These areas often contain listed buildings.

However, it is not always enough to protect these buildings in isolation. Their surroundings and general environment are often of equal importance and conservation areas are intended to protect that environment. We have a responsibility to ensure that the character of these areas is not diminished in our lifetime.
Luton has three primarily commercial use conservation areas:
  1. the town centre
  2. Plaiters’ Lea: The Hat District
  3. High Town Road (the core of Luton's earliest suburb).

We also have two primarily residential conservation areas:

  • Rothesay Conservation Area designated in 2003
  • Luton South Conservation Area designated in 2010. 

Documents available to download below on conservation areas in Luton.

How are conservation areas chosen for designation?
Conservation areas vary, ranging from historic town centres to industrial and rural villages. They are designated usually because of their buildings but they can also be designated for several reasons:
  • their history
  • architecture
  • layout or private spaces, such as gardens, parks and greens
  • trees
  • street furniture.

Conservation areas give broader protection than listing individual buildings and all features within the area, listed or otherwise, are recognised as part of its character.

Who designates conservation areas? 
We have the power to designate, and it has designated areas that people generally feel have a special character worth protecting or enhancing.
What does a council normally do in conservation areas?
We consult widely on proposals affecting a conservation area. This might include periodic enhancement schemes including proposals to:
  • prepare development briefs for sites in conservation areas
  • ensure that new buildings harmonise with their neighbours
  • make environmental improvements
  • control advertisements and shop signs
  • ensure that traffic control measures harmonise with the character of the area
  • make grants available for the repair of buildings.

What policies are used to control development?
Our main body of conservation policy is in the Luton Local Plan, which includes conservation policy with wider planning policies for the area. Policies in the conservation section generally presume against the loss of features which add to the special interest of the areas. These policies are used in the determination of planning applications in conservation areas.

Living in a conservation area
The designation of a conservation area indicates our positive commitment to these areas and our intention to preserve and enhance the quality of the environment. However, conservation areas are not open-air museums but living communities which must be allowed to change over time in order to remain vital and prosperous.

Consequently, the emphasis is to guide and control development rather than to prevent it. It is important though, that all new development should be sympathetic to the special architectural and aesthetic qualities of the area, particularly in terms of scale, design, materials and space between buildings.
We have statutory powers to control changes within conservation areas and these are summarised as follows:

Demolition of buildings
Conservation area consent is required for the demolition in whole or part of most buildings and structures, including walls and outhouses. If demolition is being considered then advice should be sought from the council.

If you wish to fell, lop or top or uproot trees within a conservation area, you must give the council six weeks notice in writing. It is an offence to carry out the work within that period without the consent of the council.

Satellite dishes
The siting of a satellite dish on the chimney stack or on the roof slope or elevation fronting the road requires consent from the council.

Minor developments
In a conservation area you need planning permission for some changes to buildings that would normally be permitted. Changes requiring consent include alterations to roofs, cladding a building, inserting dormer windows, or putting up a satellite dish visible from the street.

Design of new development
We  have the power to require a very high standard of design which is sympathetic to the existing environment. New developments must make a positive contribution to the character of the area.

In view of this, we can require additional information in support of any planning application showing how the proposal will relate to the conservation area. This can mean the submission of elevations of adjacent buildings, full details of the proposal and examples of materials and colours. Usually only a fully detailed planning application will be considered, which should be accompanied by a design statement.

We must advertise all planning applications affecting the character of conservation areas both on site and in the local paper.

More information can be obtained by using the contact details provided.

The success of the conservation areas
The ultimate success of conservation areas will depend upon the care which individual owners take with the maintenance and repair of their properties and in any alterations or extensions they make.

For example, original windows and doors should be repaired where possible, or replaced with new ones to match the originals in terms of materials used and details of their design. Cumulatively, even small changes can detract from the special character of an area.

Some conservation areas have additional controls to the ones described here and information on this can be gained from the contact details provided.

If you would like to make any changes to your property or require further information please contact us.


Contact info
Development control
Luton Council, Town Hall, George Street, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 2BQ

[email protected]


© 2024 Luton Council, Town Hall, Luton LU1 2BQ