What is a Conservation Area?

Conservation areas exist to manage the special historic, cultural and architectural interest of a place, in other words the features that make it unique. Designated by the local council as the planning authority, special planning rules and building controls apply to protect the special features. Conservation areas are designated for the value they represent to broader society, the protections they offer to the story of the area, its inhabitants and ownership.

Conservation areas benefit everyone with their stable, consistent and coherent cityscape and legible history,

“The lives of ordinary working people and the houses they lived in are not as visible in the historical record as those of kings and queens and stately homes. The Brookmill Road Conservation Area offers rare evidence of an ensemble of streets and modest houses largely unaltered since they were built for labourers and artisans in the mid-late 1800s.” Dr John Price, FRHistS, SFHEA, Senior Lecturer and Head of History Department, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Brookmill Road Conservation Area and the first Brookmill Conservation Group

In 1972 Lewisham Council designated Brookmill Road and the adjacent ensemble of streets as a Conservation Area, the first to be protected as a heritage asset after Blackheath. Conservation of an area always depends on people who care about its unique qualities. The first Brookmill Conservation Group was set up by local resident, Margaret Aylward, in response to a Council decision affecting local houses and gardens. Her son Fred, who still lives in the area, writes:

“My mother Margaret volunteered to lead the group and organised meetings in the room above
the Brookmill pub, in those days called the Cranbrook. It had been decided by Lewisham
Council that an access road be built at the end of the gardens in Admiral St so that a refuse
collection vehicle had access to tenants’ metal dustbins. This meant the tenants in the lower end of
Admiral St would would lose 12 feet at the end of their gardens. It didn’t affect Strickland St
gardens as the two garages in Cranbrook Rd were in the way. An exit onto Brookmill Rd was
considered too dangerous and so the vehicle would have to back up into Cranbrook Rd. There was
no room for dustbins to be left on the access road. No other access roads were suggested. When it
was made clear that only Admiral St tenants would lose the end of their gardens, the scheme was
deemed unfair and unnecessary, so the road was never made, securing a victory for the Brookmill
Road Conservation Group.