Home > Website archive > News and media > News archives > 2013 > 10 > Gentrification plays central role in conservation decisions

Gentrification plays central role in conservation decisions

HousingThere is a strong link between increasing gentrification and the designation of conservation areas (CAs), according to research from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

This recent study, Game of Zones: The Economics of Conservation Areas by Dr Gabriel Ahlfeldt (LSE) and Kristoffer Moeller (TU-Darmstadt, CMS Berlin), Sevrin Waights (LSE, CMS Berlin) and Nicolai Wendland (TU-Damstadt), provides a detailed analysis of restrictive conservation policies within the UK and the associated economic and social costs, and benefits, to local homeowners.

It found that the presence of affluent residents, and residents who hold a degree, significantly increase the chances of an area being given conservation status. This type of resident is more likely to express a particular appreciation for heritage, and lobby for preservation.

Using property data from Nationwide Building society, the researchers also found that designation of conservation status had no immediate effect on properties prices inside conservation areas but that there was often a significant increase in property value just outside the areas.  

As a result, the researchers found that most buyers inside and outside conservation areas collectively acknowledge the benefits of designation policy. They also value the stability  heritage preservation brings to a neighbourhood, compensating buyers within conservation areas for the costs of strict regulation and maintenance obligations, as well as restricted rights to alter their properties, according to their own taste.

These findings are supported by an additional qualitative study by Dr Ahlfeldt, and Dr Nancy Holman (LSE), who used more than 100 in-depth interviews and surveys with residents and property professionals in nine conservation areas within Richmond, Hackney, Kensington and Chelsea, Haringey and Ealing. These surveys established the value residents placed on living in a CA as well as how they were likely to behave with regards to planning regulation.

They estimated that around 70% of residents living in areas considered to be of relative “high-premium” value viewed their neighbourhood as distinctive and special in comparison to neighbouring districts considered to be low-premium. These residents, therefore, were more likely to value their local environments and acknowledge the need for planning control.

The research also showed that residents in high-premium areas were more likely to raise objections to planning proposals based on maintaining the character and heritage of the area, such as opposing the removal of a significant tree. Residents in low-premium areas, however, tended to be less articulate in their reasons for objecting to proposed planning.

Dr Gabriel Ahlfeldt author of both studies, said:

“Previous reports regarding built heritage and its value focused either on the financial impact designation has on property or its value as a public policy goal. Our research offers unique insights into conservation planning and how it produces cooperative behaviour. Conservation areas are amongst the most restrictive of English planning policies. Designation implies a significant limitation of owners’ control over the shape and appearance of their properties. Yet, we find that for many residents, especially the highly educated and those living in high premium areas; the benefits of designation outweigh the costs. This is strong evidence that neighbourhood character and preservation is highly valued if it is sufficiently distinctive.”


Notes to editors

A copy of the discussion paper “Game of Zones: The Economics of Conservation Areas” can be found at http://rlab.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/abstract.asp?index=4317

A copy of the discussion paper “No escape? The coordination problem in heritage preservation” can be found athttp://www.ahlfeldt.com/WP/NH_GA_NOESCAPE.pdf

1. Dr Gabriel Ahlfeldt is a lecturer in urban economics and land development, Department of Geography and Environment, LSE.

2. Dr Nancy Holman is a lecturer in urban planning in the Department of Geography and Environment, LSE.

3. Research data consisted of a mixed-method analysis of close to 1 million property transactions near to approximately 8000 CAs and 111 interviews with residents within the nine CAs in Greater London, as well as interviews with local homeowners.

4. There are approximately 10,000 conservation areas in the UK, which vary greatly in their nature and character. Under section 69 of the Planning Act 1990 local planning authorities are required to determine which part of their areas possess special architectural or historic interest. Whilst there is no legal requirement to consult the public before designation, it is encouraged by central government to do so by consulting the public on the proposals, however upon designation there is no formal duty to notify owners or occupiers individually.


Dr Gabriel Ahlfeldt, Lecturer in Urban Economics and Land Development, LSE  

E: g.ahlfeldt@lse.ac.uk

Lucy Chakaodza, LSE Press Office

E: l.chakaodza@lse.ac.uk 

T: 020 7955 7440