A Practical Guide to Conservation Areas

What is a Conservation Area?

The purpose of a conservation area is to protect a location of particular historical or architectural interest, it is desirable to preserve or enhance its character or appearance.

There are currently 10,000 conservation areas in England alone.  Council’s generally publish maps of conservation areas on their website you can check if your property/land is within a conservation very easily.

If you’re hoping to develop within one of these areas, it’s important to be aware of the dos and don’ts, which may vary depending on your local planning authority.

What do I Need to Know as a Developer?

Conservation areas are subject to a range of additional planning restrictions that aim to protect and preserve their character.  There can also be added limitations if there is an Article 4 Direction in place.

Though this is not an exhaustive list, some works you may need planning permission for within a conservation area include:

  • Demolishing a building
  • Demolishing certain boundaries
  • Substantially altering or building a new structure or boundary
  • Raising the ridge or expanding the size of a roof
  • Cladding walls
  • Installing, altering or replacing a chimney
  • Displaying advertisements
  • Installing a satellite dish
  • Constructing front, side or two-storey rear extensions
  • Adding detached ancillary buildings or garden sheds to the side of a dwelling house
  • Conducting surfacing, ground works or works to trees

You may also need to gain permission for various other smaller works, including repairs and maintenance, or installation of solar panels and roof lights.

What is an Article 4 Direction?

Article 4 Directions are introduced by local councils and mean that extra planning restrictions are in place within an area.

Importantly, if you wish to develop in an Article 4 Direction area, certain permitted development rights may not apply.

Usually, permitted development rights would allow some smaller developments to be completed without the need to seek formal planning permission.

For example, the building of porches and other home improvements are often covered by these, as are certain conversions and outbuilding constructions.

If an Article 4 Direction is in place within a conservation area, you may need to seek formal planning permission for these types of work.

What do I Need to Know about Submitting a Planning Application for Development in a Conservation Area?

In brief, there are some key things you should know when you submit an application for development within a conservation area, such as:

  • In general, you can not submit an application for outline planning permission, as it’s difficult for the Council to assess the scheme without the details;
  • Trees within conservation areas are protected in a similar way to having a Tree Preservation Order in place, take a look at our blog Practical Guide to Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs);
  • Design of your proposal will be heavily scrutinised, sometimes there is a Conservation Area Appraisal or Management Plan associated with the area which is useful to use when looking at design;
  • Preserving a conservation area doesn’t mean that a contemporary design will not be permitted, in some instances a modern building is preferable rather than an imitation of something within the area;
  • Early discussions with the Council’s conservation officer is recommended as they will be a key consultee in the determination of your application.

Do I Need a Heritage Statement When Applying for Planning Permission in a Conservation Area?

Yes – as conservation areas are classed as heritage assets, a heritage statement is required when applying for planning permission.

A heritage statement involves assessing the impact of a proposed development on heritage assets (including conservation areas).

To find out a little more about heritage statements, you can take a look at our Practical Guide to Heritage Statements blog post.  A template is also available as a download within the blog.

Do I Need Permission for Demolition within a Conservation Area?

Proposals which involve substantial demolition of any unlisted building or structure in a conservation area may require consent.

In a conservation area you do not need consent to demolish a building which does not exceed 115 cubic metres or to take down any wall, gate or fence which is less than 1 metre high where abutting a highway, or less than 2 metres high elsewhere.

The Benefits of Conservation Areas

It’s not all bad news! Conservation areas are unique, beautiful and characterful locations, often brimming with historical relevance.

Properties within these areas usually sell for a higher price, and the stringent planning regulations mean that the area should not be ruined by unsightly developments.

If you’re hoping to develop on land or a property within a conservation area, it’s worth getting in touch with a Town Planner who can help you to produce a heritage statement, whilst navigating any Article 4 Directions that may be in place.


Related Content:

Looking for a Town Planner take a look at our blog When to Hire a Town Planner, which also has a download on Steps to Choosing a Town Planner.

Historic England provides general advice about conservation areas and other heritage assets.