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What building changes can and can’t you make in a Conservation Area?

homeowners guide


Home improvements are an obvious way to increase your enjoyment of the property and they have the potential to add real value too. Whether you’re in the process of buying a home that requires a few tweaks or you’ve acquired a ‘doer upper’, or you want to adapt your existing home for a growing family, there’s a lot of scope to put your stamp on it. However, if the property is located in a Conservation Area, things may not be quite so straightforward.

At Cosey Homes, our team of Chartered Surveyors, Structural Engineers and Building Engineers has more than a decade’s worth of experience in providing property related consultancy and reporting services. We’ve put together a useful guide to help home owners in Conservation Areas who wish to make alterations to their buildings.

What is a Conservation Area?

A Conservation Area is a designated area of historic and architectural interest. There are around 10,000 of them in the UK across cities, towns and villages, estates and parks. Check with your local council to see which Conservation Areas exist in your area and whether your property is located within one. If you are in the middle of a property purchase, there are several things you should check before you buy and your conveyancing solicitor should be able to provide you with this important information.

The point of a Conservation Area is to preserve the unique character of the area, which means planning restrictions have been put in place to limit the changes that can be made to buildings, greenery and street furniture. Each Conservation Area is different; the rules are set by your local authority and largely depend on the nature of the area they’re trying to protect. You may not be able to replace your windows, change the colour of your front door or redesign your front garden.

What about Permitted Development rights?

Permitted Development rights are rights granted by Parliament that allow home owners to make a wide range of changes to a building without the need to apply for planning permission. Read our recent blog on this topic for full details.

However, when it comes to Conservation Areas, these rights will be reduced, or they may have been completely removed by an Article 4 direction on the area. Without getting too technical, this is a restriction put in place by the local planning authority, either in relation to a particular area (e.g., a whole Conservation Area) or site or a particular type of development. Any proposed building works will require full planning permission.

Which Permissions do you need in a Conservation Area?

Being located in a Conservation Area means that your proposed building works need to be more sensitive to the local heritage and character of the area than would otherwise be the case. While it doesn’t mean that your building extension or loft conversion has to be a carbon copy of the period house next door, it does mean that you need to put more thought into coming up with a design that is sympathetic to the neighbourhood.

Planning Application

Expect your Planning Application to be scrutinised by your local conservation officer who will be looking for high quality design that both enhances and preserves the character of the local area. You are likely to need planning consent for the following alterations:

There may also be rules that are specific to your Conservation Areas that could prevent you from replacing original windows or doors, making changes to guttering and pipes, felling trees or shrubs, or changing the colour of the building, doors and windows.

If you are in doubt about whether your plans may be approved, it’s worth calling the local planning department and getting as much information as possible well before you submit your application. You may also be able to pay for pre-application advice. Starting the design dialogue with your local planning authority as early as possible is always a good idea.

Conservation Area Consent

If your project includes an element of demolition work, you may need to obtain Conservation Area consent in addition to Planning Permission. While every council may have its own regulations, as a rule of thumb you won’t be allowed, without permission, to demolish a:

Always check with your local planning office as a matter of urgency if you are not sure about the exact qualifying criteria.

Get in touch

At Cosey Homes, we have a wealth of property expertise to put at your disposal. Whether you need our professional advice during a property purchase, wish to obtain a competitive quote for a home survey or discuss any of our expert services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

UK Wide Chartered Surveyors
UK Wide Chartered Surveyors
Cosey Homes offer the full range RICS home surveys from Level 1 - 3 with national coverage provided by our experienced local property surveying team.
DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information only and not intended as advice. Each property has its own set of unique circumstances, all potential issues should be investigated by a surveyor on a case by case basis before making any decision.