Heritage, Conservation & Environment

On the Isles of Scilly there are a high concentration of buildings, monuments and archaeological artefacts of historical importance. Along with many designations of natural importance, there are a lot of considerations to be made for the interaction, conservation and enhancement of these nationally significant features. The following sections on this page provide more detail:

For further advice on matters of Conservation and Listed Buildings including any application process please contact: Lisa Walton Senior Officer: Planning and Development Management Tel: 01720 424456 or Email: lisa.walton@scilly.gov.uk


In 1975 the whole of the Isles of Scilly was designated as a Conservation Area making it the only local authority area covered entirely by a single designation. This recognises the integration of the buildings and landscape in Scilly and how man has shaped the land over a long period. The Council has a duty to preserve and enhance the character of the Conservation Area and to protect features of special architectural or historic interest. Responsibility for conservation lies with the Planning Department of the Council of the Isles of Scilly.

What is a Conservation Area?

For general information on Conservation Areas you can view the Historic England web pages here.  The concept of Conservation Areas came out of the Civic Amenities Act 1967.  Whilst the original legislation has been superseded, conservation area designation essentially controls the demolition of unlisted buildings and works to trees, restricts permitted development rights on dwellings and tightens regulations on advertisements. 

The Council of the Isles of Scilly, as the Local Planning Authority (LPA), has a statutory duty under Section 69 of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, to identify those areas that have ‘Special Architectural or Historic Character’ that it wishes to preserve or enhance and to designate them as Conservation Areas.  In 1975, under the 1967 Civic Amenities Act, the Council took the decision, following public consultation, to designate the entirety of the islands as a Conservation Area. This recognised the integration of the buildings and landscapes in Scilly and how its inhabitants have shaped the land over a long period. 

Planning powers in conservation areas
Sections 71 and 72 of the above act requires that LPAs pay special attention, when carrying out their planning functions, to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of a conservation area. This means that they must take account of this in the adoption of planning and council policies, planning applications, enforcement, controls relating to trees, advertisements, properties in need of maintenance and in exercising their highway powers.

Duties and Implications following designation

  1. DEMOLITION - Planning Permission is required for the demolition of any unlisted building larger than 115 cubic metres or the removal of any gate, wall or other means of enclosure which is less than 1 metre in height, where it abuts the highway, or 2 metres in height elsewhere. Guidance on this can be found on the Planning Portal.
  2. UNAUTHORISED WORKS – The demolition of an unlisted building in a conservation area without planning permission is a CRIMINAL OFFENCE.  It is also an offence to undertake demolition for which planning permission has been granted without complying with a condition attached to the consent.  While Magistrates Court can hear such prosecutions, the more serious offences can be referred to the Crown Court.  Judiciary take such matters extremely seriously fining owners tens of thousands of pounds plus costs for persons found to have demolished structures and buildings in conservation areas without consent.
  3. TREES - Notice must be given to the LPA before works are carried out to any tree in the conservation area.  It is also an OFFENCE to carry out works to a tree in a conservation area without notifying the LPA or to carry out the works where consent has been refused.  The Offence can be tried by a Magistrates Court or in a Crown Court and, as with the demolition of an unlisted building, the court will take into account any financial gain that as accrued or is likely to accrue as a result of the offence.  Works to trees includes pruning, crown lifting/reductions/thinning and tree felling.  You must give the Council 6 weeks’ notice of such works.  The Conservation Area designation automatically confers blanket protection to every tree within its parameters.  A tree in this instance is defined as anything with a stem diameter over 75mm when measured at a height of 1.5 metres above the ground. This does not apply to hedges in the Conservation Area.  A person wishing to carry out works to a tree (as defined above) must send the LPA a notice of his or her intention to do so.  This is referred to as a Section 211 Notice, and its purpose is to allow the LPA to evaluate the trees and respond, if necessary, with a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) to prevent the work or control the extent of the works.  Section 211 Notices can be submitted in writing but it is recommended that you use the Planning Portal online application form.  Guidance on carry out works to trees in a conservation area can be found on the Planning Portal. See below for a list of current TPOs on the islands.
  4. PERMITTED DEVELOPMENT - Certain works that can be carried out to private residential properties without planning permission (known as permitted development rights) are somewhat reduced. Those permitted development rights affected are set out in the Article 4 Direction section below.  Full details on permitted development rights are set out in the General Permitted Development Order.  
  5. UPKEEP OF THE AREA - The provisions for ensuring the repair or upkeep of listed buildings can be applied to conservation area buildings (S.48-54).  There are a range of measures that the LPA can use when historic buildings or land in a conservation area has fallen into a poor state of repair or is being deliberately neglected.  Urgent Works Notices (S.54) can secure emergency or immediate repairs to those buildings or parts of buildings which are unoccupied.  If the building is unlisted then agreement of the Secretary of State is required.  A Repairs Notice (S.48) can only be served on a listed building and can secure much more extensive repairs, but the LPA must be prepared to exercise powers of compulsory purchase should the owner not co-operate.  Under its general planning powers the LPA can serve a Section 215 Notice (Town and Country Planning Act 1990) on the owner or occupier where the building or land is adversely affecting the amenity of the area and can require them to clean up the building or site.
  6. ADVERTISEMENTS – Permitted development for advertisements are also somewhat reduced.  The character of the Conservation Area can be seriously eroded through the installation of inappropriate signs.  Under the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations2007 the sizes of signs that can be erected under Advertisement Consent Permitted Development is reduced.  Full details about Advertisement Consent can be found in the Outdoor advertisement and signs: A Guide for Advertisers.
  7. COUNCIL DUTIES - The LPA is under a general duty to ensure the preservation or enhancement of conservation areas and to prepare proposals to that end. (S.71 + 72).  Designating a conservation area should not be seen as an end in itself: we live in a changing world and for the historic environment to survive and continue to be cherished it needs to be positively managed. National planning policy and advice from and Historic England is placing greater emphasis on the need to take a holistic and proactive approach to managing conservation areas and making full use of planning powers. Clearly an understanding of a conservation area’s qualities and issues is key to developing the most suitable management tools and policies, along with the need to foster public and political support and to secure a resource commitment.

For advice on any aspect raised above please contact the Planning Department for which details are above.

Tree Preservation Orders

TPO Ref Trees  Location Date Interim Order Made Date Order Confirmed Report Order
T01/2018 T1 Elm Tree and T2 Elm Tree The Distillery, Old Town Lane, Old Town St Mary's 11th September 2018 28th February 2019 Yes Yes



The archaeology of Scilly is of international importance with evidence on land and below the present high water mark indicating that Scilly has been settled for at least four thousand years.

There are 238 Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Many of these scheduled sites cover extensive areas on the islands, containing over 900 individual monuments, representing different periods. There are concentrations of prehistoric ritual and burial monuments, field systems and houses, cist grave cemeteries and Romano-British settlements and shrines.

Over the last four hundred years a series of military installations has developed from Tudor forts and castles, Civil War batteries, 18th century and late 19th century defences, to World War II pillboxes and airfield installations.

Lighthouses and other evidence of the maritime heritage of the islands can be found, while the wrecks of over 700 ships point to an astounding marine archaeological resource.

Article 4 Directions in Scilly

An 'Article 4 Direction' is a special planning regulation we've adopted (as the Local Planning Authority) to provide additional powers over development on the islands. Each of the 4 article 4 directions covers all of the islands. These regulations help us to introduce planning controls, minor developments and change of use to ensure we protect the character of our local area. The regulations remove 'permitted development rights' for certain minor alterations, extensions and changes of use, as set out in the direction, where normally an application for planning permission would not be required. The effect of these Article 4 Directions is that planning permission is required for the specified minor developments and changes of use in the affected area(s).

Current Article 4 directions covering all of the Isles of Scilly

  • IOS Article 4 Direction 1975 this removes the right to enlarge, improve or carry out other alterations to any house on any of the islands including the construction of curtilage buildings.  It also removes the right to change the use of land for any purpose. This document also removes all agricultural permitted development rights for agricultural land of more than 1 acre.
  • IOS Article 4 Direction 1988  this removes the right to construct swimming pools within the curtilage of any house on any of the islands.
  • IOS Article 4 Direction 1995 this removes the right to make any alteration to the roof, to paint the exterior or change the windows or doors of any house on any of the islands.
  • IOS Article 4 Direction 1998 this removes the right to provide a temporary structure in connection with a development project.

It is the intention of the Planning Department to review all of the above Article 4 Directions to ensure the most up-to-date legislation, with regard to permitted development and changes of use, is covered moving forward.

Listed Buildings

There are 128 listed buildings in Scilly ranging from the majority which are Grade II listed traditional dwellings and farm buildings to the Elizabethan Star Castle, one of the four Grade I listed buildings. With a higher than average proportion of Grade I and II*, and  238 Scheduled  Monuments the Isles of Scilly has the highest density per hectare of any English authority. All development affecting the character or appearance of a listed building requires an application for listed building consent to be made to the Planning Department. If you own a listed building would like to find out more information on heritage buildings and the responsibilities of their owners, you can visit Historic Englands  website or contact the Planning Department. Historic England also have a searchable map which you can use to find listed buildings, scheduled monuments and other heritage sites on the Isles of Scilly or across the UK.

Heritage and Cultural Strategy

A Heritage and Cultural Strategy for the Isles of Scilly was created in 2004 to formulate local cultural strategies and although dated it does provide a useful insight into the unique heritage and cultural identity of the islands. 

It had five primary objectives:

  • to quantify the essential qualities that form the unique heritage and cultural identity of the islands
  • to provide a strategic framework within which to develop action programmes
  • to assist in the prioritising of options for the application of resources
  • to provide policy objectives against which to measure progress in the delivery service across the heritage and culture sectors.
  • to assist the local community to identify with the rich heritage and traditions of Scilly and engender a sense of ownership and participation in the policy making process. 

In 2017 a further piece of work was produced by the Local Planning Authority.  This Historic Environment Topic Paper supports the new Local Plan 2015-2030 and sets out a positive strategy for the protection of the islands important historic environment.

Scilly Historic Environment Research Framework (SHERF)

SHERF is a project being undertaken by those with an interest in research into the historic environment of the Isles of Scilly. These include academics, local authority archaeologists and others. The project is part-funded by English Heritage (now Historic England) with contributions from the Council of the Isles of Scilly, the Isles of Scilly AONB Partnership and the Duchy of Cornwall.

The aim of this project is to define a research framework for the historic environment of the Isles of Scilly. This will be achieved by assessing our current understanding of Scilly's past, by identifying gaps in our knowledge and by promoting priorities for future research. The project will seek to involve the local and wider research community in this process so that there is a sense of community ownership of the research framework. The production of the research framework will be achieved in three stages as set out in 'Frameworks for our Past' (English Heritage 1996): Resource Assessment, Research Agenda and Research Strategy.

The final Resource Assessment and Research Agenda reports are presented here. It is envisaged that the Research Strategy will be a follow-on project resulting in a separate report. Updates on its future progress will be posted on this page.

The latest updated Resource Assessment and Research Agenda for the Isles of Scilly Historic Environment Research Framework 2019, is now available in addition to the 2011 Historic Buildings work by Eric Berrry and the 2012 SHERF Research Agenda:

For further information specific to the SHERF project please contact: Peter Dudley, Senior Archaeologist at Cornwall Archaeological Unit on Tel: 01872 322179 or e-mail: peter.dudley@cau.org.uk

Natural Environment

The Isles of Scilly contains 26 Sites of Scientific Special Interest (SSSI's), RAMSARS for seabirds and their terrestrial habitats (globally protected wetlands), wholly designated as a Special Area of Conservation and also Heritage Coast, Special Protection Area for certain species of bird, home to many species of flora and fauna, some of which are found nowhere else in the UK (for example, the Scilly shrew and the Scilly bee), important species of flora and fauna, an important staging post for migrating birds and the islands are designated as a European Marine Site.

More information can be found by following the links below to the bodies and organisations who work hard to protect and enhance the islands special designations and features

The AONB Designation

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) were created by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and, along with National Parks, they represent the finest examples of countryside in England and Wales. The Isles of Scilly were designated an AONB in 1975.

The Isles of Scilly are the smallest AONB designation in the UK. However, the Islands possess a diversity of scenery that belies their small scale. Panoramas of sea and sky are punctuated by lenses of low-lying land. The archipelago combines rugged granite cliffs and headlands, sparkling sandy bays, hidden coves shifting dunes and saline lagoons. Over 6,000 years of human occupation has led to the development of the lowland heath, enclosed pasture, hedged bulb-strips, small harbours' and quays, and scattered rural settlement punctuated by tiny townships.

The AONB designation recognises that people are an important part of the landscape, ensuring that its resources are protected, managed and capable of evolving in a sustainable way. Indeed landscape conservation and economic prosperity are inseparably tied in Scilly.