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Guide To Conservation Areas

A guide to home improvement in conservation areas

Heather

Written by

Heather

Last updated Monday 23 September 2019

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Conservation areas were introduced to help manage and protect Britain’s most prized areas. Whether they stand out due to their historic significance or their outstanding natural beauty, living in one is a real treat. However, as nice as these areas are, they do come with their own regulations - especially when it comes to changing your home.

If you’re planning on changing the appearance of your home, whether through extension or renovation, you’ll have to bear in mind these considerations…

What is a conservation area?

A conservation area is a place that has been deemed significant either by your local authority, Historic England, or (in special circumstances) by the Secretary of State.

The first conservation area was created in 1967 and since then there are now nearly 10,000 all over England. Most councils have at least one in their boundary.

Conservation areas vary across the country, and include:

  • The centres of our historic villages, towns and cities
  • Fishing and mining villages
  • 18th, 19th and 20th-century suburbs
  • Model housing estates, including late 20th-century housing projects
  • Country houses set in their historic parks
  • Historic transport links and their environs, such as stretches of canal and railway and airfields
  • Industrial heritage sites

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To find out if you live in a conservation area, you or your architect can contact your local planning authority. They’ll let you know the extent of the area plus what legal protections are in place.

How living in a conservation area affects your home

Conservation areas are mainly concerned with protecting special historical, architectural, or natural elements in your area. This means most limitations will fall onto the exterior appearance of your home, plus the trees in your garden. It also means you’ll be exempt from using permitted development rights, a scheme that allows some extensions and alterations to go ahead without planning permission.

Instead, any extension or alteration to your exterior will have to go through a full planning application and the extent of work needing planning permission can vary from council to council. For instance, some conservation areas have special controls in place (called ‘Article 4 Directions’). This restricts you even in regards to small improvements, such as replacing a door or window.

Also, any demolition work you might want to carry out will need a full planning application, plus listed building consent, should your home be a listed building. And if you need to remove, top or any trees from your property, you’ll need to notify your local authority at least six weeks before work begins. Some trees in conservation areas are protected under the Tree Preservation Order (TPO).

Overall, whether you already live in a conservation area or are considering a home in one, you should be contacting your local authority to understand what work you can or can’t do.

Planning permission

In order to go out for a full planning application, you’ll need to prepare a detailed package for submission. This will include architectural drawings of your home as it exists today, drawings of your proposed design, plus all the relevant documentation.

A planning package can be prepared by yourself but for the best results, we recommend using an architect. At Resi, when your project is ready, we’ll assign you one of our expert planning agents. This team helps hundreds of homeowners secure planning approval every year, including many in conservation areas.

Once your application has been submitted, your local authority will assign your project a planning officer, which can take anywhere from 1-5 weeks. Your planning officer will then liaise with either yourself or your architect as they review your project, with a decision taking around 8 weeks to be reached.

If you’re having work done to a listed home, you’ll also need listed building consent. For the best chance of success, you’ll need to have your application consider…

  • History of the building
  • Character features
  • Measures you’ll take to protect key features
  • Size of your extension
  • Design of your extension

And again, having an architect manage this application will give you the best chance of first-time success.

Wildlife assessment check

Alongside the conditions we've listed above, your home can also face development restrictions should a protected or priority wildlife species be present. To find out if any of these species exist near you, you can use a free wildlife assessment check tool.

If a protected species are present, you’ll need to seek professional ecological advice.

Want to learn more about developing your home in a conservation area? Talk to our experts! We’ve helped hundreds of homeowners in these locations unlock their home’s potential. Book your free consultation here.

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