An up to date Conservation Area Appraisal is the first line of defence against certain types of inappropriate development. But, over time, these inevitably become out of date, especially in a rapidly developing city such as Cambridge. In an ideal world such appraisals would be updated once every five or so years.

In December, Civic Voice, the national charity for the civic movement in England, which CambridgePPF is a member of, wrote about the more than 500 Conservation Areas that are at risk’, and outlined the successful efforts of a community group in Reading reviewing the Conservation Area Appraisal for the St. Peter’s area which had not been reviewed for a decade.

To overcome similar problems, volunteers at Cambridge Past, Present and Future (CambridgePPF), which is a Civic Voice member, have formed an innovative working relationship with hard-pressed Conservation Officers in Cambridge.

This is how it works. The council’s conservation team determines which of the current appraisals should be prioritised for review. Knowledgeable volunteers from CambridgePPF’s Heritage Watch group then walk the area noting recent developments, consulting with local residents where possible and reviewing all the more recent planning proposals. The state of listed buildings is also carefully considered as well as proposals for any additional candidates for Buildings of Local Interest status. In addition, a comprehensive photo survey of the whole conservation area is conducted to ensure that there is a contemporary visual record.

A list of detailed suggestions about how the text might be revised is then submitted to the council. These, in turn, are considered by conservation officers who make their own contributions, additions and finalise editorial decisions. The finished product is then put out for public consultation before being adopted as the council’s position.

The challenge facing the council is considerable - there are 17 Conservation Areas in Cambridge. To date the CambridgePPF Heritage Watch group has completed reviews of the Storey’s Way Conservation Area as well as the De Freville estate where a new BLI has also been identified. The group has also assisted local residents in preparing the case for a new Conservation Area (Barrow Road) and is currently working on a review of the Chesterton and Ferry Lane area.

You can find out more information about this work, how you can support the charity and the group’s next project on the webpage

A special event to mark the 50th anniversary of Cambridge’s first Conservation Area is being organised by the City Council on 27 February 2019 in conjunction with CambridgePPF, at the Guildhall.

John Gray, CambridgePPF Heritage Watch volunteer