Conservation areas are areas designated under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 for their special architectural and historic interest. In such areas special planning regulations apply to all properties, whatever their age or architectural merit.
There are more than 10,000 Conservation areas throughout England and Wales. Many include residential properties in areas such as:
- the centres of historic towns and cities
- fishing and mining villages
- 18th and 19th-century suburbs
- model housing estates
Conservation areas are designated by local authorities, often after discussion with bodies such as English Heritage (or Cadw in Wales) as well as local organisations.
The demolition or substantial demolition of a building within a conservation area will in most cases require special Conservation area consent. Permission may also be needed from the local authority for alterations such as:
- inserting or replacing windows
- installing satellite dishes and solar panels
- adding conservatories or other extensions
- fixing cladding to the exterior
- laying paving or building walls
Councils can make Article 4 Directions to cover conservation areas – works which are usually permitted development not requiring planning consent will require specific consent in such areas.
Conservation areas are not intended to remain frozen in time, change is often necessary to accommodate the demands of modern living. However the purpose of the legislation is to ensure that alterations and further development are done in a way which preserves or enhances the existing character or appearance of the area.
When buying a property, the local search made by the Conveyancing Solicitor will show if it is located in a conservation area.
The buyer’s surveyor should be alerted so as to check whether any works have been carried out for which consent might have been needed.
If works are carried out without appropriate consent the local authority has powers to require property owners to restore the property to its original condition.
Buyers therefore need to ensure that necessary consents have been obtained for works done be the seller.
If an owner or buyer is planning works to an affected property, they should contact the local council’s planning department for further advice. English Heritage/Cadw also offer general help and advice.
Anyone intending to prune or cut down a tree in a conservation area must notify the Council 6 weeks in advance.
The Council will then assess the contribution the tree makes to the character of the conservation area and decide whether to make a Tree Preservation Order.