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A Brief Guide to Conservation Areas

Feb 10, 2022

By Sam Mayou, Heritage Director, CAD Heritage (Photo by Darren Welsh on Unsplash)

If you are planning to buy a property in a conservation area, or intend to build a new property there, then this will place a number of important regulations and restrictions on the work that you can carry out. It is important to understand these and take expert advice from your consultant, before you press ahead.

Why do conservation areas exist?

Conservation areas were originally introduced to help protect some of the most highly prized areas of our towns and villages. Conservation areas are places that are deemed to be of special architectural or historic interest, and that therefore require careful management to preserve their unique character.

Usually, conservation areas will be decided by the relevant local authority, but in some instances, they can be nominated by Historic England or by the Secretary of State. The legislation to protect them was introduced in 1967 and there are now over 10,000 conservation areas in England.

All local authorities will have at least one conservation area and these are regularly reviewed to see if they should be expanded or added to. To find out if a specific property falls within a conservation area, you need to contact the relevant local authority. There will normally be an online database that you can search by postcode.

Conservation areas can cover many different types of architecture. As well as the centres of historic towns and villages, they can also protect suburbs and housing estates, historic transport links such as canals and railways, and industrial heritage sites.

In many cases, the local authority will have management plans for individual conservation areas. These provide a detailed account of the area’s special architectural or historic interest, illustrating its character, and helping to guide decisions on alterations, new developments and opportunities for enhancements.

How do conservation areas affect the planning process?

There are a number of aspects to consider. Here are some of the key restrictions.

Demolition: Consent is required for the total or substantial demolition of buildings within a conservation area. If consent is refused, you will be given six months to appeal. However, consent is not required to demolish small structures of less than 115 cubic metres.

Trees: In a conservation area, trees are automatically protected if they have a diameter of more than 75mm when measured at 1.5 metres from ground level. As a result, you must give the local planning authority six weeks’ notice before carrying out any work on trees, so that they can consider whether a protection order should be issued.

Permitted Development Rights: These are restricted in conservation areas. Roof extensions; cladding with material such as render, stone, and timber; side extensions; and rear extensions of more than one storey are not permitted, without first making an application for Conservation Area Consent. In addition, planning permission is required for satellite dishes and radio antennae which are visible from the street.

Other considerations: You may also need to take care if you are making changes to windows and doors in a way that will significantly alter the appearance of the property. The addition of items such as solar panels can be challenging, and these are more likely to be approved if they are on the section of the roof facing away from the street. Wall mounted solar panels will not be permitted in a conservation area.

In some Conservation Areas additional protection is provided by an Article 4 Direction. This is a specific piece of legislation that seeks to further limit “permitted” changes such as replacement windows and doors.

Expert advice from CAD Architects

This is only a brief overview of some of the key aspects of conservation areas. When you work with the expert team at CAD Architects, we will examine your proposed project in detail, highlight how it is affected by an existing conservation area, and map out all the options that are open to you.

We will apply our knowledge and experience in the design process to match your needs and aspirations with the conservation imperative needed to guide your project through the planning process, to give it the best chance of approval. We will engage as soon as possible with key stakeholders such as the local conservation officer, local parish council and interested neighbours. We will advise you on progress every step of the way.

While working within conservation areas can have its challenges, there are also significant benefits. Having a property in one of these special areas means that you get to enjoy living in an exceptional environment. It is also likely to enhance the long term value of your property, giving you an enhanced return on your investment.

An initial consultation with the CAD Heritage team may prove very worthwhile when considering a property purchase in a Conservation Area. To find out more, email