Last year I took a short break in Stamford, which is a fine town standing on the River Nene at the eastern end of the Welland Valley. Not only is this the best preserved historic town in England, it was also the first ever nominated as a conservation area.
This research reminds me of a discussion I had, shortly after my Stamford trip, with a housing officer responsible for improving social housing in an area of London where approximately 60% of properties lie within a conservation area. Now if you have purchased such a home, then fair enough: 'they knew what they were getting into!" as the film script goes. Social tenants don't have so much choice about where they are housed. In these difficult days for the housing market, the same could be said for private renters, too.
The difficulty for tenants living in many homes in conservation areas is that these homes have energy efficiency ratings well below the average for the UK as a whole. This makes them expensive to heat, and whereas responsible landlords (especially social landlords) might want to improve them to make them more affordable for the tenants, options to do this are very restricted because they are within the conservation area.
I found myself wondering, what's more important - preserving the street-scene by keeping the traditional look of the homes in the street, or preserving the lives of the elderly residents? Make no mistake of it, old people do die because they have to make difficult decisions between eating, and heating their homes.
If this makes you think about the rights and wrongs of this, you might like to check out this report on the affects of Fuel Poverty, available here.