We often get inquiries from prospective clients who are looking to upgrade their windows, but which live in conservation areas. Whilst this doesn’t mean that we can’t take on the project, it does mean that the task of installing new windows is made a little complicated due to the fact that they are protected by local authorities, and is one of the first questions we will ask of any new inquiry.
The History Of Conservation Areas
Introduced in 1967, conservation areas are designated for their special architectural, historical or social interest, and as such are deemed worthy of preservation. Since their inception, there are now over eight thousand conservation areas in England alone.
How Are Conservation Areas Created?
In general this is down to the local council, which will classify a certain area to be subject of conservation through the local planning authority (LPA). Under certain circumstances the English Heritage can designate areas of London to be placed under conservation but only after consulting the individual Borough Council and with the consent of the Secretary of State for National Heritage. They can also be designated by the Secretary of State if the site is of importance other than simple local interest.
What Can Be Considered For Conservation?
The list of conservation areas in England is long and dynamic. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, and areas are conserved for a multitude of reasons and in a variety of ways. For instance, historical transport links and their local environments (canalsides, etc.) have been protected, as well as historical town centres, ancient villages and 18th & 19th century suburbs.
What Does Living In A Conservation Area Mean For You?
Simply put, living in an LPA designated conservation area means that you have to run any property alterations, removal of trees and demolition through the Local Council before any work can even begin to take place. This includes installing any new windows or doors as they may alter the aesthetic of the building, which itself needs to be protected. Any additions to the building must be kept in strict accordance to their original property, and in most cases like-for-like bespoke windows will need to be created in order to achieve this.
So if you’re thinking of upgrading, or even simply repairing your windows with us, make sure that you speak to your LPA beforehand!
Image by Tim Dutton
We love London. Its hustle and bustle, its marauding tourists, its bars, pubs, restaurants; the sun setting on the Thames and rising over Trafalgar square. There’s something magical about the city and quite frankly we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else! It’s not just the place that we work, but also the city that we live in and the place that we call home.
Sometimes it can be easy to get bogged down with all the traffic and congestion, the smoke and the fumes. The way that the transport system seems designed to destroy your plans on a daily basis is a teeth clenching burden, and the constantly rising prices of everything may irk more than most, but then it wouldn’t be the greatest city on the planet without its little pitfalls.
One amazing fact that I recently read was that London has actually been announced as the ‘greenest city in Europe’, which places it third in the ‘greenest cities in the world’! Isn’t that fantastic?... I think whilst we spend a great deal of our time staring into the blackening abyss of tube tunnels, it’s easy to forget that just a few feet above our heads are acres upon acres of parks and greens that pepper London’s concrete streets.
Walk down any road in London and you will soon find yourself greeted by a courtyard - a little green space shaded by oak trees - or one of London’s humongous Royal Parks. It’s something that most Londoners probably take for granted, but when you consider the next greenest city in Europe was Berlin, whose green space constituted only a measly 14% of its land area compared to London’s 40%, it seems a crying shame to do so.
However, this revelation isn’t just about aesthetic appeal, as the green pastures of London have a significant impact on climate change and pollution, acting as carbon sinks which absorb a great deal of the excess greenhouse gases we produce.
Along with the introduction of the hydrogen bus, and the updating of the network system with cross rail soon to come into effect, we ought to see, over the years, an even further reduction in the gases that we actually release. It would be fantastic if one day London could become the greenest city in the world; our network of parks and transport systems, a model for future development of new cities.
Pollution. That invisible enemy that permeates the city sky line, its only marker; the faint haze it lays across the horizon as the sun sets. It’s easy to pretend that it isn’t an issue when we can’t see it. Even easier when all we hear is that the effects of our pollution are making the ice on the poles slowly melt, or wild conspiracies about green house gases that are supposedly peddaled by the oil companies to keep us consuming.
There’s a whole load of disinformation on the subject and very little concrete scientific study that can genuinely demonstrate how creating an alarming amount of carbon emissions, for well over a century, can affect the planet. That’s not to say that it isn’t an issue, but rather to say that the issue is so new and so vast that it’s incredibly difficult for those studying the effects to come to exacting, concrete conclusions.
Rather than plead ignorance and imagine that it’s not a problem that we, and our future generations, are facing, I believe it’s the responsibility of the individual to accept that pouring excess mega-tonnes of gas into the atmosphere is definitely dangerous and ought to be adressed on a personal level.
I like to compare the problems with pollution to salting food. There are naturally occuring salts in our foods that satisfy our daily requirements, yet we still place a little in for flavour. Just a little is fine, of course, but excess salt quickly turns your meal unpalatable and unhealthy, with too much salt guaranteed to make you sick. The same goes for CO2 emissions, except it’s not us getting sick, but rather the planet – and our perspective is too small to really see these effects.
So what can we do? Well, there are plenty of things from recycling to purchasing an electric car, or even simple steps such as walking places instead of driving. One thing that we at Oak Windows can help with, and which we are really trying to integrate into all of our timber designs, is to install energy efficient windows.
We’ve been developing a system that incorporates Grade A energy efficient glass within an oak window frame that provides a considerable drop in the amount of heat loss through your windows. This not only means that we’re preventing excess heat to escape into our atmosphere, but that we needn’t heat our properties quite so much – further reducing the amount of carbon emissions we create by burning less gas.
Pollution is something that we all need to take very seriously, and, at Oak Windows, we pride ourselves on taking every step we can to reduce our carbon footprint. We just ask that you do too!
We’d like to think we are a conscientious company. We’re always looking for ways to make our practices more environmentally friendly, cutting down on our greenhouse emissions where we can and ensuring that all of our products are manufactured with ethically sourced materials.
It’s a simple fact that as a species, our manufacturing processes are taking all the nutrients that our soil has to offer whilst giving nothing back. We are also burning an alarming amount of fossil fuels that are filling our atmosphere with greenhouse gases, causing global warming and who knows what long term damage for our planet’s eco systems.
Even with the Kyoto Protocol in place, and its newer iteration set to come into force in 2015, there is still a very long way to go before we are actually making a serious impact on the way that we manufacture goods and use the planet’s resources. Whilst the cheaper option is still to burn fossil fuels, or to source materials from unethical traders, then industry will unfortunately choose to ignore the cons, blinded by the pros of greater profit margins instead.
So What Can We Do?
One further step we have taken towards making our company greener and cutting down on our carbon footprint is to plant a tree for every order placed with us.
We figured we had to give back to the planet for giving us the materials that have allowed us to prosper and create the business that we have today. So how better than by contributing trees to the magnificent Bisham Woods, so that future generations can reap the benefits?
An ancient woodland of over 400 years old, Bisham Woods is a fantastic forest near Maidenhead. Complete with its own special wildlife interests and stunning views, it’s a hot spot for nature enthusiasts, hikers and families alike. Part of the Woodland Trust, it is under the protection of the charity who are looking to further expand upon its already rich cultural heritage and make it a real destination for years to come.
We’re proud to say that Oak Windows are contributing to this fantastic operation and would encourage anyone interested in helping out to get involved too!
Image by Nikola Ostrun
Five Reasons Heritage Is Important
With many home-owners facing the arduous task of trying to update their heritage property's structure or even make necessary repairs, we often find that our clients rue the fact that their property has been placed under such strict protection.
And whilst we understand that it can be a real chore, heritage is a very important facet of our culture. Here are our top 5 reasons why!
1. Heritage properties are tangible links to our history
With each layer of paint, mark on the floor, jaunty fixing, we have fragments of our history that we can touch and feel!
2. They add character to neighbourhoods
If you've been lucky enough to avoid the tyranny of red brick new builds, then count your blessings. Heritage properties offer something unique and distinctive in comparison to many of the average properties constructed nowadays.
3. Heritage is environmentally friendly
It's common sense. If we're not using energy to tear up properties, then using energy and resources to rebuild them, then we're preserving energy and limiting our carbon footprint! Sure, there's the fact that many heritage properties suffer may not be energy efficient per se, but with the installation of energy efficient windows and doors, this needn't be a concern!
4. Heritage preservation of properties is a big industry!
The heritage movement employs a lot of people to not only run their public body, but also across the board as property guardians, ground staff and so much more. Many heritage sites act as tourist destinations too, bringing money into the economy.
5. It's good for your emotional well-being
Ok, bear with us. But studies show that architectural beauty actually causes the release of endorphins, which make us feel happy and content. So heritage buildings are making the country a happier place!
Have we managed to convince you that heritage is a good thing yet? We hope so!
So What Can You Do To Help British Heritage?
There are many ways that you can get involved with the heritage movement, helping to continue the preservation of history, art and culture.
Memberships to the English Heritage foundation begin at £39 a year which gives you free access to over 400 historical sites, and tickets to events. This money is funnelled back into the foundation, helping protect properties and areas of cultural imporance.
You can also work for the organisation! Get yourself a position as a member of the English heritage work force and help preserve this country's heritage with your own hands! If this isn't possible, there are a wealth of volunteer positions so you can still get involved and help out.
More Info at: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/
Image by Elliott Brown
Conservation areas and listed buildings are places that are protected by local planning authorities, supported by heritage trusts, which demonstrate a special architectural of historical interest. In many cases these sites are protected by planning permissions which prevent any additional building work to be undertaken on the property or piece of land.
This isn't true all the time, however, and in cases where it can be proven that improvements to the building (like installing oak windows!), can actually enhance the property and improve its longevity, permission is often granted.
This can be a real pain for a lot of people, and we have a great deal of our clients annoyed by the process they have to go through just to install new windows. We hear you! But there's an often overlooked facet to this story that I think many people ignore as it causes them an inconvenience.
Conservation areas and listed buildings are extremely important pieces of our shared cultural heritage. They are as important as the pieces of art that hang in the national galleries; they are snapshots of our past, of artistic expression, technology and innovation.
Conservation areas themselves vary greatly in their nature, ranging from centuries old market towns to remote fishing villages and even a whole city centre. However, it's not just the architecture and the visage of the buildings that makes these areas so important, it's their legacy laid out in the way the roads meander – the cobblestones underfoot, which all contribute to the place's organic character. It is the cherished local 'feeling' that is preserved for generations to enjoy.
Listed building, as you might imagine, are solely the building which have been protected. These can often fall within conservation areas, or can be stand alone properties with their own distinct and important heritage. In the UK around 2.5% of these are of international importance, bringing in a great deal of tourist trade. These places are simply drenched in history and include the phenomenal architecture of Queens' College Cambridge and Buckingham Palace.
Not all of the country’s listed buildings are these grand world renowned structures, however, with over 94% given the classification of Grade II. These places demonstrate special architectural significance, such as the stone cottages you find dotted throughout the countryside, or some of the grand Victorian town houses sat astride wide London streets.
Without an organisation put in place to protect these places, we would lose so much of what makes England and the UK beautiful and unique. These places are part of the rich tapestry that has been woven by this country's wild and varied history! A world without these stunning structures lacks character and colour, and we would hate to see it changed.
Image by Salford City Council
It's about time we started owning up to the fact that we are polluting our atmosphere at an alarming rate, and whilst we see the effects of global warming in the rapid melting of the ice-caps and erratic weather systems that dominate the planet, it's still too easy to dismiss it as someone else's problem.
We have a tendency as a people to say, well it's China, or a large-scale industrial plant that's doing the real damage – it's not us! But we have to realise that these processes which create the noxious gasses that poison our air, are a bi-product of an industry that is trying to keep up with our demands and needs at the lowest cost.
We need to start looking at home, on our doorstep, to see what we can do first and foremost. This will then have a rippling effect and spread throughout the rest of the Earth.
So the question is, “what can you do?”
I've done it – I'm sure you have too. You're a little tired and you can't be bothered to separate the cans from the rest of your rubbish so you lob it all in together proclaiming that “it's only one can – that's not going to matter”.
The problem is that we all do this. It's not only one can, it's a million. Two million. Three. Four. Before you know it there are more going into the landfills than recycling plants. You just have to commit yourself to doing it. It's not only cans either. You will find that most of your garbage can be recycled if you take it down to the local dump. So start here, start small.
We're using more electricity than we ever have before in human history. Practically everything we do nowadays (down to even reading a book!) is done with an electronic device which requires power to come from somewhere. In most cases, this is the burning of fossil fuels or natural gas which releases an incredible amount of CO2 and other harmful gases into the atmosphere – not to mention the radiation produced which is considerably more than nuclear power stations even!
Solar panels have become incredibly accessible and really quite affordable; there are even help to buy schemes that are available for those less well off. Excess energy produced can be pooled and shared amongst the community, which (if large enough) results in a pay back scheme. After a while they end up paying for themselves and go a long way to reducing your carbon footprint.
Almost always overlooked as a source of reducing our carbon footprint, forestry is a totally natural way for us to combat the amount of carbon monoxide that we produce through industrial processes. Acting as carbon sinks, sequestering the gas from the atmosphere, they purify our air and reduce the total amount of green house gases suffocating our planet.
“But what do forests have to do with me?” I hear you ask. Well, there are a great deal of charities that work almost exclusively on donations and volunteers, which have been established to preserve our already existing forests as well as to create new areas. The Forestry Commission is one such organisation, and a charity that we work closely with. At Oak Windows, we also plant a tree for every order placed with us – to give back to nature what we've taken away. We urge you to get involved too!
Green resources and practices are very close to our heart and we want everyone play their part. If you have any further opinions or ideas on ways in which we can preserve the planet, then please leave a comment in the section below.
Image by Joshua Mayer
A large part of our company's ethos is to use materials sourced only from the best and most trustworthy suppliers. We're keen to make sure that we are sourcing wood which has come from sustainable industry, and endeavour to support groups that work towards preserving our woodlands. One of our favourite organisations that works towards this aim is The Woodland Trust.
A non-profit company set up in Devon in 1972, it was originally masterminded by the retired farmer Kenneth Watkins, though it's grown far more than he could ever have imagined. By 1977 The Woodland Trust owned twenty two woods in six counties and has grown exponentially since then.
Today the charity owns over 80 woods in Scotland alone, with a mind blowing 850 in England which covers a total of 25,000 acres. This includes a total of around 350 ancient woodlands, which are areas that have been 'under tree cover' since before 1600.
In fact, they don't just preserve already established sites, but have also taken a major step towards creating areas, having established over 32 square kilometres of new woodland across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Even more impressively, they are also looking to restore ancient woodlands, by carefully and gradually reintroducing plantations to strengthen flagging forests.
The Woodland Trust runs on donations from its many members as well as various corporate sponsorships. They also draw funding from a variety of charitable trusts like National Lottery Funding, as well as seeing a return from the Landfill Tax, which is a a tax applied to companies with a great deal of waste disposal. Looking to encourage organisations to reduce the amount of waste they produce it's fantastic to see the money going into preservation.
Whilst The Trust may be overlooked as a charity on the whole, we feel that their cause needs to be championed, not only because of the fact that they are conserving beautiful recreational areas, but also because the benefits of the country's thriving forestry is manifold and affects everyone.
Large wooded areas greatly enhance air quality, absorbing a lot of pollution and giving back much needed oxygen to the local environment. They also go a long way to reducing the threat of flooding by absorbing excess water and lowering the water table. Of course that's to overlook the fact that they are part of our cultural heritage and, as the centuries have passed, these woods have blossomed and bloomed, setting the stage for the many intricate pieces of our collective history.
A very worthwhile cause, we urge all who are interested to make a donation to The Woodland Trust as a little thank you for all the work they put into keeping our countryside so unique.
We support the Woodland Trust and the work they do to protect the woodlands, as part of our support we plant a tree for every order we receive in order to do our part to help woodlands from being destroyed.
photo by Dan Scape