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Buying in a Conservation Area

Adele MacGregor

Written by

26th Jul 2022 (Last updated on 1st Dec 2022) 5 minute read

Homes in conservation areas are very often beautiful and full of character. These areas protect buildings and grounds which are architecturally and historically significant. As a result, buying in a conservation area means you will face certain restrictions and rules.

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 the purchase, knowing the restrictions you would face with the home.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What is a Conservation Area?
  2. Does Living in a Conservation Area Affect the House Value?
  3. Conservation Area Planning Restrictions for Homes
  4. What Are There Penalties For Breaching Restrictions?
  5. Do I Live in a Conservation Area?
  6. What is a Restrictive Covenant?
  7. Find Expert Help for Buying Within Conservation Areas

What is a Conservation Area?

A "Conservation Area" means an area of notable historical or environmental importance. 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.

According to Historic England, 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 to maintain the unique features of the area. Most conservation areas are designated by the local council.

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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 homes in these areas sold for a premium of 9% on average. They reported that the value put on the appeal of these areas is reflected in property prices.

The research also found that there was no "universal negative attitude" towards imposed regulations on the homes.

Conservation Area Planning Restrictions for Homes

Conservation areas are protected due to their architectural, environmental or historical importance. As a resident in one of these areas, you must be prepared to face restrictions, even if you own the property outright.

Be aware that rules will vary depending on the area, however, there are some restrictions which are common across the board. Essentially, the aim of a conservation area is to preserve the appearance and value of the area and the properties within it.

What Cannot Be Done

The alterations that cannot be made to a home in a conservation area include:

  • Replacing the windows and doors. In the event 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.
  • Altering guttering or pipes. Again, where damage has occurred, you may be forced to find a like-for-like replacement.
  • Felling trees or shrubs. It is not just the buildings that are protected in these areas. Wildlife is also protected and you may be barred from removing trees, shrubs or other plant life.
  • Painting the facade (front of the house) or changing the colour of features on the outside of the property.

What Requires Permission

Although not forbidden, you will need permission for the following:

  • Extensions above one storey
  • Extensions to the side
  • Alterations or extensions to the roof (including chimneys)
  • Cladding of any material (such as pebbledash)
  • Constructions of any outbuildings (including sheds) or 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

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What Are There Penalties For Breaching Restrictions?

If the conservation area rules are breached, you will likely face penalties. This is the case for work carried out without permission or changing the appearance of the home.

The maximum penalty is 2 years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine. 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 property is unlisted, 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.

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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.

For more details about Restrictive Covenants see: What is a Restrictive Covenant?

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.

Adele MacGregor

Having worked at Compare My Move for over four years, Adele covers topics such as the conveyancing process across the UK, property surveys, home moves and storage.

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