Buying in a Conservation Area
Homes in conservation areas are very often beautiful and full of character. These areas protect buildings and grounds which hold special architectural or historic interests. As a result, buying in a conservation area means you will face certain restrictions, requirements and rules. This is the case even if you own the property outright.
These will dictate what you can and cannot do when altering and maintaining the property. Your conveyancer will likely inform you if the home you are looking to buy is within a conservation area. It is then up to you if you wish to proceed with buying, knowing the restrictions you would as the property owner.
What Does Conservation Area Mean?
A "Conservation Area" means an area of notable historical or environmental importance. The main purpose of a conservation area designation is to preserve the design and value of the area. The Cotswolds is a prime example of a conservation area.
Buildings in these areas come with regulations in the same way as listed buildings. There are around 10,000 conservation areas in England alone. Wales boasts over 500, with over 600 conservation areas in Scotland. It is therefore essential you check if the home you are buying is situated in one.
Historic England states these are designated due to “an external value of society that requires protection”. They are protected by law against undesirable alterations to buildings or land. This is to maintain unique features and the area's special character. Most conservation areas are designated by the local council.
Does Living in a Conservation Area Affect the House Value?
Homes in conservation areas typically cost more than in other areas. These properties also appreciate in price more than homes in other areas.
London School of Economics and Historic England research found that these heritage assets in these areas sold for a premium of 9% on average. They also reported that the value put on the appeal of these areas is reflected in property prices.
The research found that there was no "universal negative attitude" towards regulations on the homes.
Restrictions for Homes in Conservation Area
Living in a conservation area may mean your home is affected by Article 4 Directions (A4D). This allows the local authority to withdraw specified permitted development rights in a defined area. This is similar to the Listed Building Consent required for work on listed buildings.
This does not prevent development, but it does restrict work and home improvements that would normally not require planning permission.
What Requires Permission in a Conservation Area:
- Extensions above one storey on the existing building
- Extensions to the side (including small extensions and single-storey extensions)
- Single-storey extensions that extend over 3 metres beyond the back wall of the house or 4 metres of a detached home.
- Alterations or extensions to the roof (including chimneys)
- Cladding of any material (such as pebbledash)
- Construction of any detached ancillary buildings or outbuildings (including sheds)
- Construction of features like swimming pools
- Installing any kind of satellite dish or similar device (for the part of the property that faces a road).
- Addition of solar panels on the original house
You cannot without permission demolish a building that is more than 115 cubic meters. You also cannot demolish a wall, gate or fence that is over 1 meter if it borders a road or over 2 meters if it doesn't.
There may also be rules and regulations specific to your conservation area. Make sure you check with the relevant local authority before making any changes to your home. These may include:
- Felling trees or shrubs. It is not just the individual buildings that are protected. Wildlife is also protected and you may be barred from removing trees, shrubs or other plant life. You should check there are no Tree Preservation Orders in place in the area.
- Painting the facade. There will likely be restrictions on changing the colour of the front of the home and features on areas outside of the property.
- Replacement windows and doors: If these need replacing due to damage, they will need to be replaced like for like. For example, a sash window. It’s likely UPVC alternatives to windows and doors will not be acceptable. The appearance must be similar to those of the original construction.
- Altering guttering or pipes. Again, where damage has occurred, you may be forced to find a like-for-like replacement.
What Are There Penalties For Breaching Restrictions?
If the conservation area rules are breached, you will likely face penalties. The maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment under Section 74 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.
This is the case for work carried out without the necessary permission or changing the appearance of the home. Where work is carried out without permission, the offence is committed by the person doing the work (a builder) and by the person instructing them.
Even if the home is an unlisted building, if it is within a conservation area it will fall under the regulations.
Do I Live in a Conservation Area?
You can find out if you live in a conservation area by contacting your local planning authority (LPA). You can find this through your local council.
When buying a house, your conveyancer will arrange Local Authority Searches. Complied by the local council, these provide information about the home and the land it sits on. This includes whether the home is a listed building or within a conservation area.
What is a Restrictive Covenant?
Restrictive Covenants are binding clauses written into a property’s deeds or contract. These prevent the homeowner from carrying out certain alterations. Like Conservation Area regulations, these encourage the conservation of protected areas.
You will likely be made aware of these by your solicitor during the conveyancing process. In the event you breach a restrictive covenant, you could be forced to undo the work, pay a fee and/or face legal action. This is whether you breach the covenant knowingly or not.
Read more about What is a Covenant on a Property
Find Expert Help for Buying Within Conservation Areas
If you’re buying a property in a conservation area, you will need to hire a regulated local conveyancer. They will be able to get information on the property and land from the local authority. This will give you a better idea of the regulations and rules attached to the home.
By comparing quotes with Compare My Move, you can ensure you find the right conveyancer for you.
It is recommended to arrange a survey for a property in a conservation area, especially if it is an older home. The Level 3 Survey is best suited for unique or unusual properties and period homes. The survey can find any defects or issues with the home, plus details about the land it sits on.