Draft Copy

Grantown: Conservation Area

Appraisal and Review

Bill Sadler for The Grantown Society

November 2016

“The historic environment is part of our everyday lives. It helps give us a sense of place, well-being and cultural identity.  It enhances regional and local distinctiveness.  It forges connections between people and the places where they live and visit.  Scottish Government policy

Grantown has a unique and very special heritage.  It is considered to be one of the finest and best preserved of all the Georgian planned settlements in Scotland.  It has a vibrant, traditional High Street and many fine Victorian and Georgian features. Yet today, despite appearances, Grantown has a very fragile economy.  The High Street shows visible signs of decay.  Derelict sites and unoccupied buildings require new investment.  New tourist and community facilities are needed.  Amenity areas call out for attention.  A detailed appraisal can help us to rediscover what makes Grantown so special and to consider how we can all share the responsibility for this small  and very beautiful town in order to promote and enhance its assets and safeguard them for future generations.

Grantown Conservation Area

What is a Conservation Area?


Conservation areas “are areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.” Local authorities have a statutory duty to identify and designate such areas.

The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997

Why are Conservation Areas important?

Conservation areas are crucial to the conservation of our environment. They help safeguard the area for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations.  Any new development should preserve or enhance their varied character.

Guide to the designation, safeguarding and enhancement of Conservation Areas. Scottish Government March 2005

What is special about Conservation Areas?

An understanding of the ‘character’ of a conservation area grows out of a careful study of the nature, form and history of a special place. This helps identify the nature of a place – how it has developed and become what it is today and what factors influenced its current form. It is important not only to describe what currently makes up a place – the form, layout, architectural styles and materials used – but also to gain an understanding of how these elements were created and why they took the form they did. Getting under the skin and unpicking the appearance of a place is crucial to understanding and appreciating its character. http://www.scottishcivictrust.org.uk/media/160843/conservation_area_management_16.4.14.pdf

What does a Conservation Area mean in practice?

The designation of Conservation Area status gives formal recognition of the special qualities of the area.  It enables development within that area to be carried out in such a way as to maintain these qualities and its character. This means greater planning control as well as potential financial support.

What are the benefits of Conservation Area status?

There is recognition that the area has a special character and there is a clear rationale to protect and promote the qualities which make it special.  This has marketing and tourism potential.  It heightens awareness of both conservation and good design.  It can help create a community “vision” and confidence. A conservation area with a sound appraisal and a defined management plan is in a position to attract grant funding for projects. These can support sympathetic development of both existing and new buildings. It may especially help rejuvenate High Street buildings to improve shops and the flats above, develop necessary facilities such as a community and visitor centre, restore derelict buildings and help general amenity. There are two main grant programmes aimed at regenerating conservation areas: Conservation Area Regeneration Schemes (CARS) and Townscape Heritage Initiatives (THIs). For individual conservation projects, rather than large-scale regeneration schemes, the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) helps voluntary and community groups to repair and regenerate historic buildings, with grants, loans, advice and publications.  The benefits go to those living and working in the conservation area and to the wider community

In Callander, a town with many similarities to Grantown, a CARS identified five priority projects, which included two hotels; a large retail unit; a historic bridge; and a guest house/retail unit. The Small Grants Scheme element of the CARS resulted in 34 grants being awarded (5 commercial and 29 residential). The Small Grants covered a number of elements, including chimneys, roofs, repointing, lime mortaring, stone repairs, architectural details, bargeboards, guttering and windows.  Other large scale surveys and education, training and tourism projects were initiated.  In all a total project spend of £1.2m was achieved.

From the report of a CNPA and Grantown Society/Initiative study visit to Callander in September 2016

What are the disadvantages to living in a Conservation Area?

Conservation area status gives the planning authority greater control of demolition of unlisted buildings and structures and brings under planning control such as removal of, or work to, trees; development involving small house extensions, roof alterations, stone cleaning or painting of the exterior. Conservation area designation enables planning authorities to implement stronger management control and thus play a particularly important role in protecting unifying features (e.g. doors, windows and shop-fronts) and in arresting the incremental erosion of character and appearance by small-scale alterations that in themselves may not be significant but collectively and over time might have a negative impact.

New development will normally only be granted planning permission if it can be demonstrated that it will not harm the character or appearance of the area. Generally, developments should be of a high quality, both in terms of design and materials, and sympathetic to the character of the conservation area. This does not mean the design must replicate the traditional styles or detailing of existing historic buildings, indeed there are excellent examples of contemporary buildings in a historic context which enhance their surroundings. The Scottish Civic Trust, for example, generally takes the view that a building should be ‘of its time’ and a contemporary design which is harmonious with the historic context is most appropriate. Some planning authorities choose to require positive enhancement through good quality design rather than creating a neutral effect.

What is a Conservation Area Appraisal?

A Conservation Area Appraisal is a management tool which helps to identify the special interest and changing needs of an area.  An appraisal provides the basis for the development of a programme of action with the sensitivities of the historic area and enables a planning authority to fulfil its statutory duty to preserve and enhance conservation areas.  Appraisals also inform policy and assist development control.  They provide an opportunity to involve communities in identifying the character of an area and help developers formulate development proposals.  Planning authorities are encouraged to prepare Appraisals for all their conservation areas in consultation with the local community.  

Scottish Government Guide to Conservation Areas

Planning Authorities have a duty to prepare proposals for the preservation and enhancement of conservations areas, although there is no imposed time frame for doing so.

Scottish Civic Trust

Planning authorities must pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of the designated area in making planning decisions that affect the area.  A more considered and careful approach is therefore needed in considering development proposals in a conservation area.  In response to these statutory requirements, an appraisal document defines and records the special architectural and historic interest of the conservation area and identifies opportunities for enhancement.

An appraisal document therefore seeks to:

 1 define the special interest of the conservation area and identify the issues   which threaten the special qualities of the conservation area

 2 provide guidelines to prevent harm and identify opportunities for    enhancement

 3 provide the local authority with a valuable tool with which to inform its   planning practice and policies for the area.

An appraisal provides a firm basis on which applications for development within the conservation area can be assessed. It should be read in conjunction with the wider development plan policy framework produced by the local authority.

An Appraisal can also lead to increased levels of community confidence, a desire for improvement, wider recognition of the special character of the area, potential funding and increased tourism.  In the case of Grantown this could be very significant and lead to possible Historic Environment Scotland’s Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme, Heritage Lottery Fund Townscape Heritage Programme  and Cairngorms Leader.

Ref Grantown Action Plan by Iconic for Grantown Initiative

How is a Conservation Area Appraisal carried out?    Three examples:

The Callander Conservation Area Appraisal was commenced in 2007-08 by consultants, who were paid for by Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority and then completed by LLTNPA staff.

 Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority presentation

In Helensburgh the Community Council in 2005 began to liaise with other community groups with the purpose of undertaking an appraisal of the conservation area in the town.  The appraisal process included an exhibition of ‘impressions of the Conservation Areas’ seen through the eyes of Helensburgh’s photographers, artists, writers and school children.  Groups such as Helensburgh Photographic Club, the Helensburgh and District Art Club and the Helensburgh Writers Group were invited to contribute their interpretation of what the conservation areas mean to them.  A tremendous response was received from the various local groups and the local schools.  This extensive and meaningful public consultation led to a very positive reception for the appraisal document, which has since been adopted by Argyll & Bute Council as Supplementary Planning Guidance, and an increased awareness of conservation and design issues in the town.

Scottish Civic Trust  A How-to Guide to Conservation Area Management.

Ref An Appraisal of the Conservation Areas in Helensburgh 2008  by Helensburgh Conservation Areas Group

The Keith Appraisal was carried out in 2010 by the Scottish Civic Trust on behalf of the Moray Council.  It was intended to be a document in its own right and the appraisal and analysis were to help understand and manage the historic core of Keith.  It was prepared with the assistance of Andrew P K Wright, Chartered Architect and Heritage Consultant who acted as Project Consultant.   It was supported by a Steering Group which included members from the local community, Keith traders and local councillors.  It included feedback from public and business meetings.  It supported the Council’s application in 2010/2011for Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) funding.  The subsequent CARS ran until March 2016 and was funded by Historic Scotland, The Scottish Government and European Community, Moray Leader 2007-2013 programme and the Moray Council.  It was overseen by the Steering Group.

Ref Keith Mid Street Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme leaflet and www.keith cars.org.uk

Ref Keith Mid Street Conservation Area Character Appraisal & Action Plan

Where is Grantown’s Conservation Area?

The area designed for conservation in Grantown is the central Georgian rectangle bounded on the North by Grant Road and Mossie Road and on the South by Woodside Avenue and South Street (see map).  It includes Inverallan Church but not the Primary School or the Ian Charles Hospital. It includes a few buildings beyond South Street and excludes the South West corner of the town.  Most, but not all, of the Victorian Villas are excluded.  Included in the conservation area is the intermediate  “backland”  lying essentially between the High Street frontage and the parallel residential streets: once the original Georgian “tenements” and now a mixture of newer developments.

“The overall composition of fine, imposing buildings – some 25 of which are listed, formal “streets” and tree-lined spaces give a high quality urban setting, recognised by the designation of a Conservation Area.”

Grantown-on-Spey: Town Centre Backland: Draft Development Brief: August 1999.  Highland Council Director of Planning and Development

The Case for a full review of Grantown’s Conservation Area

The 1999 development brief produced by The Highland Council Director of Planning stated that, within the conservation area;

“Development, including ancillary buildings, should be of a form and scale compatible with the character of the town and consistent with the following agreed Council guidelines;

* finishes – natural stone or harled walls with roofs clad in slate or similar materials;

* design – roofs should be pitched at 40 degrees, window openings should be of sash and case dimensions, doors of traditional proportions, and gabled dormers will be sought where appropriate;

* orientation/building lines – reinforcing established street frontages, possibly single storey tenement cottages on backland sites, and reinstatement of walls;

* satellite dishes – preferably to the rear of buildings;

* open spaces – safeguard important features and vistas.

The Council will keep the boundaries of the Conservation Area under review.”

Whilst there are a number of attractive buildings, each, in the words of the Scottish Civic Trust,  “‘of its time’ and of “a contemporary design which is harmonious with the historic context”, a look at existing and proposed developments since 1999 suggests that the town has not been entirely well served by the planning authorities and a review is overdue.

At the Scottish Civic Trust 2015 annual conference a prominent conservation architect questioned why Grantown did not have an assessment and management plan.

What might be included in a Grantown Conservation Area Appraisal?

An initial literature review suggests the following headings could be useful for the appraisal document.

History and Development, patterns of growth

Area of appraisal

  Georgian rectangle, High Street and Square, Tenements, Victorian    Villas, Backlands, Peripheral growth

Character assessment

  Spatial analysis

   Activities and uses

   Street Patterns and Urban grain

   Historic townscape

   Open spaces, trees and landscape

   Views landmarks and focal points

  Buildings analysis

   Building types

   Scheduled monuments

   Key listed and unlisted buildings

   Materials and local details

   Condition of buildings, internal and external

   Buildings at risk

  Public realm audit



   Materials and features

  Development opportunities

  Character areas


  Key features and assessment significance

   Local, Strathspey, National Park, Regional, National,       International and  Clan significance

  Negative factors

  Specific issues

   eg rainwater goods

   Signage and shop fronts


  Boundary review

Conservation action plans

 Including planning constraints, guidance, priorities, costings, funding  opportunities

Ref An Appraisal of the Conservation Areas in Helensburgh 2008  by Helensburgh Conservation Areas Group

Ref Keith Mid Street Conservation Area Character Appraisal & Action Plan

Ref Elgin High Street Conservation Area Part 1: Conservation Area Appraisal

Possible Appraisal Process


Exhibition and Establishment of Steering Group

Statutory Bodies input


Literature and policy review

Appointment of consultants


Public meetings

Historical Perspectives


Involvement of local groups and businesses

Community Views

Buildings and ownership survey

Initial reporting and community review

Action plan



Presentation and Adoption of Report


Who will benefit?

Benefits from appraisal and planning

 Potential regularisation of Conservation Area

 Heightened awareness of the special character of central Grantown

 Increased knowledge of buildings’ ownership and state of repair

 Clear vision of development requirements

 Planning Authority blueprint

 Valuable resource for development of Local Plan

 Resource for local history guide book, tourist guide and town trails

 Community empowerment through groups, organisations, clubs and  societies working together

 Inspiration for quality private and public development

 Potential for major funding


Benefits from potential funding

 Funding for priority projects – possibly including such as - Community  Centre, Visitor Centre, Hotels, Backlands, High Street Properties,  Information and Marketing, Housing, Tourist Accommodation

 Small grants scheme – shop fronts, gutters and down pipes, chimneys and   chimney heads, doors and windows, public spaces and furniture

 Training and employment

 Tourist increase

 Increased confidence and recognition


Conservation Area Management Planning Advisory Note (PAN) 71: Scottish Executive 2004

Dingwall Conservation Area Conservation - Area Character Appraisal: Dingwall History Society; Andrew Wright:  Highland Council

An Appraisal of the Conservation Areas in Helensburgh 2008  by Helensburgh Conservation Areas Group

Keith Mid Street Conservation Area Character Appraisal & Action Plan

Elgin High Street Conservation Area Part 1: Conservation Area Appraisal

Grantown Action Plan: iconic for Grantown Initiative

Outline Case for a P.T.C.  (Planned-Town Visitor Centre).  George Dixon

Caring for our historic planned towns.  Andrew Wright presentation for The Grantown Society (G250) 2015

Our Community … A Way Forward Action Plan – Grantown-on-Spey. 2008

CNPA proposed Local Plan – consultation 2013: 31 Grantown on Spey

Cairngorms National Park Local Development Plan 2015

Small Towns in a Small Country. Cliff Hague 2013 BEFS (Built Environment Forum Scotland)

Callander CARS presentation for Grantown Initiative Study Visit – powerpoint presentation, map and notes by Lee  Haxton 2016.

Scotland’s Towns: A call to action.  Cliff Hague 2013 BEFS

BEFS Small Towns Health Check

To what extent do the peripheral suburban villas 1863 – 1914 of Grantown reflect the local social and economic  climate and national stylistic architectural trends.  William Sadler 1976

 Housing in Strathspey. W Sadler 1991 Grantown Heritage Trust

A Guide to Conservation Areas in Scotland. Scottish Government 2005

Grantown on Spey Town Backland Draft Development Brief. 1999 The Highland Council Planning and  Development Service

Grantown on Spey.  Patterns of Streets and Houses: A Short Town Trail.  W Sadler 1989

Keith Mid Street Conservation Regeneration Scheme.  Project flier.  

Grantown Conservation Area: An Appraisal.  Andrew Wright.  Powerpoint Presentation for The Grantown Society  2106

Grantown on Spey Town Centre Pilot Project: Consultation Draft 2016

Home Events gallery Projects Links News Contact