Demand that Lewes’s Conservation Area plan addresses the climate emergency


A draft plan for Lewes Conservation Area omits guidelines for improving the energy efficiency of buildings. We urgently need to tell the South Downs National Park they must be included, says retired architect and Lewes resident Dr Suzy Nelson.

The South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) is consulting on its draft Lewes Conservation Area Audit and Management Plan. It focuses on understanding the historic character of the area and puts forward proposals for its preservation and enhancement.

The plan acknowledges that both the South Downs National Park and Lewes District Council have declared a climate emergency and that there is a need to improve the energy efficiency of buildings to reduce carbon emissions. But the SDNPA fails to offer guidance about how this can be done in the conservation area.

For example, the SDNPA’s plan emphasises the need to either preserve timber windows or replace them with new timber ones. But it would be helpful to indicate how this could be done in an energy efficient way by, for example, using slim-line double glazing when replacing glass in existing windows or highly efficient simulated sash windows in non-listed buildings or at the rear of properties. (The City of Westminster has provided guidance on making windows more efficient.)

The SDNPA’s plan also makes no reference to the insulation of walls.  External insulation can offer significant advantages over internal insulation as it avoids thermal bridges and involves less disruption for residents. Whilst it would not appropriate to use it on the street elevations of listed buildings, its use should be considered on rear elevations and on non-listed buildings. Brighton and Hove City Council have provided detailed guidance on external insulation.  


A need for guidance

In other words, a much more proactive approach is urgently needed by our national park and there is a growing number of examples of how this is being done elsewhere.

Brighton and Hove City Council has produced guidance on energy efficiency for historic houses in Conservation Areas.

Local Listed Building Consent Orders can be used to remove the need for planning permission in certain cases by specifying when development is deemed to be appropriate. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has introduced a Consent Order to provide for the installation of solar panels on grade II listed buildings and is consulting on another one for window improvements.

The  Climate Emergency Conservation Area Toolkit, recently published by the Architects Climate Action Network, gives detailed advice on how to retrofit different building elements to improve their energy efficiency in ways that respects the historic character of buildings.


Want to comment?

It’s important that these gaps in the plan are addressed as a matter of urgency. If you would like to comment on the draft Lewes Conservation Area Audit and Management Plan, you can do so here. Comments must be made by midday Tuesday 11 July.



  1. Jan Newbury

    Whilst I welcome the draft Lewes Conservation Area Audit and Management Plan, I believe that more comprehensive guidance on how sustainability can be achieved should be offered as other local authorities have done.

  2. Marion Brandis

    yes, I agree, guidelines about this issue are so needed! Although I love old buildings, I would not buy one as long as these issues are not addressed.

  3. Ian McKay

    Whilst we all love and cherish our built heritage, I don’t think future generations will thank us for ignoring issues such as affordable warmth and remaining carbon budgets when it comes to old buildings. Built environment professionals especially those who set and administer guidance, legislation and statutory approvals have a moral duty to understand, practice and support carefully considered eco-refurbishment.


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