Conveyancing Advice - What is a conservation area ?

Where a conveyancing lawyer identifies a property is within a conservation area this means that the local authority has the following extra controls over the property ( over and above planning permission and building regulations ) :

  • demolition
  • minor developments 
  • the protection of trees 

Demolition in a Conservation Area

This does not mean that you can never alter or demolish one, but carrying out relevant work without the appropriate consent is a criminal offence.

Applications for consent to totally or substantially demolish any building within a conservation area must be made to the local planning authority, or, on appeal or call-in, to the Secretary of State for the Environment. Procedures are basically the same as for listed building consent applications. Generally there is a presumption in favour of retaining buildings which make a positive contribution to the character or appearance of the conservation area.

Minor developments in a Conservation Area

If you live in a conservation area, you have to obtain permission before making changes which would normally be permitted elsewhere, to ensure that any alterations do not detract from the area's appearance. These changes include certain types of cladding, inserting dormer windows, and putting up satellite dishes which are visible from the street.

Under legislation introduced in 1995, local authorities can make further restrictions on the kind of alterations allowed, depending on how these might affect the key elements of buildings in the conservation area. Examples might be putting up porches, painting a house a different colour, or changing distinctive doors, windows or other architectural details. The local authority has to have good reason for making these restrictions, and must take account of public views before doing so.

To many owners, any tighter restrictions or additional costs, such as for special building materials, are more than outweighed by the pleasure they derive from living in such an area.

Trees in a Conservation Area

Trees make an important contribution to the character of the local environment. Anyone proposing to cut down, top or lop a tree in a conservation area, whether or not it is covered by a tree preservation order, has to give notice to the local authority. The authority can then consider the contribution the tree makes to the character of the area and if necessary make a tree preservation order to protect it.