As an alumna of the University of Dundee, I was interested to read that the University has lodged a planning application to demolish the former student accommodation at 16 – 18 Airlie Place, Dundee. As the unlisted tenement building is situated within a conservation area, the proposed demolition has hit the headlines and heightened interest in the laws designed to protect historic buildings and conservation areas.

16 – 18 Airlie Place, Dundee

The four-storey tenement block which the University intends to demolish sits in the city campus conservation area, and neighbours the B-listed tenement block of 14 Airlie Place, while itself being unlisted. Over the years, it has fallen into such disrepair that it would cost the University a considerable sum to remedy. Rather than undertaking the repairs, the University has opted to demolish the block in favour of temporary soft landscaping to be used by the University's Nursery.

Conservation Areas

The purpose of identifying conservation areas is to focus on the desirability of protecting or enhancing the character or appearance of areas of special architectural or historic interest. It is the duty of Planning Authorities to determine which parts of their areas should be so classified, although Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has a reserve power to intervene and designate conservation areas where they feel this is required.

Conservation Area Consent

It is necessary to obtain conservation area consent from the Planning Authority before any demolition of a building situated within a conservation area can take place. There are exceptions to this including listed buildings (as separate listed building consent would be required), ecclesiastical buildings in ecclesiastical use, and scheduled monuments (scheduled monument consent would be required), for example. The full list of exceptions can be read here. It is, of course, an offence to demolish a building without prior conservation area consent.


Following an application for consent, the Planning Authority will consider the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of the conservation area, together with the importance of the building to the area's character and appearance. As with any planning application, the Authority will also consider any representations made in connection with the proposed works, such as objections or comments in favour of the application.

In this case, it is understood that HES has recommended that, rather than being demolished, the tenement block should be re-purposed. They have also raised concerns in relation to the potential impact upon the neighbouring listed building at 14 Airlie Place.


As planning permission is often not required for demolition of a building, the need for conservation area consent can be significant. The City of Edinburgh Council refused conservation area consent for demolition of the popular Earthy café, although that decision was overturned on appeal.

The outcome of the Airlie Place application is awaited with interest.