In conservation areas, it is the protection of the quality and special interest of the neighbourhood or area as a whole that is intended, rather than specific buildings. For example, the layout of boundaries, roads, vistas and viewpoints, trees and green features, street furniture and surfaces, the characteristic building materials of the area, the mix of different uses, and the design of shop fronts may all be taken into account when deciding whether an area has a particular special architectural or historic interest. It is the role of the listed building process to protect individual buildings, although it is common for many listed buildings to also be located within designated conservation areas where those individual buildings make a contribution to the special architectural or historic character of the area.
Current Government planning policy on Conservation Areas is laid down in (for England) Planning Policy Guidance Note 15: Planning and the Historic Environment (PPG15), Section 4 and (for Wales) Welsh Office Circular 61/96 - Planning and the Historic Environment: Historic Buildings and Conservation Areas.
There are additional planning controls over certain works carried out within the Conservation Area. For example, demolition within Conservation Areas requires consent. The designation does not preclude development from taking place, but does require that developments preserve or enhance the historic character of the area, for example by ensuring that newly constructed buildings are of a high quality design. Conservation Area status also removes some permitted development rights that apply in undesignated areas.
A conservation area may have a Conservation Area Advisory Committee, a non-elected body of people, some of whom may be expert, who are concerned about the conservation in the particular area.