Conservation areas (CAs) are among the most restrictive English planning policies. Designation implies a significant limitation of owners’ control over the shape and appearance of their properties. The policy, however, can also be argued to solve a sort of ‘prisoners’ dilemma’, in which it might be collectively rationale to preserve the character of an area, but an individual homeowner may be tempted to inappropriately alter their property, thus free-riding on nearby properties’ character. The net-benefit of the policy depends largely on the existence of positive ‘heritage effects’ and acknowledgement from homeowners that policy contributes to neighbourhood stability and the preservation of these positive effects. Our results of a mixed-method analysis of close to 1 million property transactions near to about 8000 CAs and 111 interviews with residents in nine representative CAs in Greater London suggest that positive heritage externalities exist and that residents in CAs tend to value their local environments, acknowledge the need for planning control and execute their right to object to neighbour’s planning request.
My co-author, Gabriel Ahlfeldt and I tackle these questions in our working paper for the Spatial Economics Research Centre.