The Leigh Conservation Area relates to that part of the settlement north of the railway rising up Leigh Hill to the parish church. It was designated a Conservation Area in 1971, and later extended. To find out which properties are within Leigh Conservation Area see our directory.
Leigh has a long history as a settlement dependant on the sea, and despite many changes still has much of the character of the old seafaring community. It was first recorded in the Domesday book of 1086 as "Legra", a tiny fishing hamlet. With increasing trade during the Middle Ages the settlement took advantage of its good sheltered position on the important shipping route to London and began to grow. By the 13th century it had its own parish church, although the present building dates from the 15th century. Between the 13th and 18th centuries development focused around the fishing port in Old Leigh but following the arrival of the railway in 1856 there was an explosion of speculative development eastwards over fields along the top of the hill to the east of the Old Town. This area contains the Leigh Conservation Area.
Leigh's special interest
The Conservation Area's special interest comes from its history as part of the working marine village, its varied traditional architecture and its fine position on the hillside overlooking the Estuary.
Historically, the village was centred on the waterfront at the foot of the hillside. Horse Hill (now Leigh Hill) was the main road from the village. The Parish Church in its prominent position at the top of the hill overlooking the Estuary was separate from the main settlement. Until the mid-nineteenth century, only a few higher status buildings were close to the Church with sporadic buildings close to the road into the main village. From the mid 19th century, the village spread up the hillside towards the Church with modest vernacular housing, schools, and a new lane to the Church (Church Hill). New houses in the Broadway were gradually converted to shops to supersede the Old Town as Leigh's shopping centre.
The Conservation Area contains a variety of architecture. Buildings are mostly on a small domestic scale with simple designs in uniform terraces and more loosely connected groups. Traditional buildings and materials predominate and help establish the area's character.
Further information on the history and special of Leigh Conservation Area can be found in the Leigh Conservation Area Appraisal.
Development in the Conservation Area
Minor works to most houses in the conservation area which would normally be classed as permitted development (works that can be undertaken without planning permission) such as changing windows or roofing materials are covered by the Leigh Article 4 Direction and a planning application must now be made. This enables the Council to control aspects of local character which make an important positive contribution to the conservation area.
All development in the Conservation Area including extensions and alterations such as changing windows and roofing materials should follow guidance set out in the Design and Townscape Guide in particular Section 9 Historic Buildings. It is always advisable to review the Leigh Article 4 Direction and to check with the Council if planning permission is needed before undertaking any works to the exterior of a property in the conservation area.
The updated Conservation Area Appraisal for Leigh Conservation Area (adopted March 2022), makes a recommendation to update the Article 4 direction for this area, and work is underway to review this, although currently the Leigh Article 4 direction is as per the information provided above.
Leigh Conservation Area Map (see page 4)