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Buying in a Conservation Area: Restrictions and Rules

Adele MacGregor

Written by

26th Jul 2022 (Last updated on 18th Aug 2022) 5 minute read

Conservation areas exist to protect areas and buildings of architectural and historical significance. As a result, buying a home in a conservation area means you will face certain restrictions and rules. These dictate what you can and cannot do when it comes to changing or maintaining the property.

Some people may be looking to buy a property they aren't aware is located in a conservation area. Your conveyancer will likely inform you if this is the case. 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 are Conservation Areas?
  2. What Does Living Within a Conservation Area Mean for Homeowners
  3. Are There Penalties For Carrying Out Work within Conservation Areas?
  4. Does Living in a Conservation Area Affect House Prices?
  5. Am I in a Conservation Area?
  6. What is a Restrictive Covenant?
  7. Find Expert Help for Buying Within Conservation Areas

What are Conservation Areas?

Conservation areas are designated areas of notable historical or environmental interest or importance. The Cotswolds or National Parks like Snowdonia are examples of conservation areas.

Buildings in these areas come with regulations in the same way as listed buildings. There are around 10,000 conservation areas in England alone. There are over 500 in Wales and over 600 conservation areas in Scotland, so it’s essential you check if the property is situated in one.

Historic England states these are designated “on the ground of an external value of society that requires protection”. They are protected by law against undesirable alterations to the buildings or land. This is to maintain the unique features of the area, preserving it for future generations. Most conservation areas are designated by the local council.

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What Does Living Within a Conservation Area Mean for Homeowners

As a resident of a home in a conservation area, you are limited by what improvements and alterations you can make. These are protected due to their architectural, environment or historical importance.

You must be prepared to face restrictions when it comes to carrying out work on your home, even if you own it outright.

Conservation Area Planning Restrictions for Homes

There are certain alterations that cannot be made to a home in a conservation area. These 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 any features on the outside of the property.

Additionally, although not forbidden, you will need permission when it comes to the following alterations:

  • 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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Are There Penalties For Carrying Out Work within Conservation Areas?

If the conservation area regulations 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. The demolition of an unlisted building in a conservation area without planning permission is a criminal offence.

Does Living in a Conservation Area Affect House Prices?

Homes in conservation areas typically cost more than in other areas. These properties also appreciate in price more than homes in other areas.

Research by the London School of Economics and Historic England found 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 the imposed regulations on the homes.

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Am I 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.

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

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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 obtain information on the property and land from the local authority. This will give you a better idea of the regulations and rules in place regarding 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, in addition to details about the land it sits on.

Find the best local surveyor by comparing quotes with us and save up to 70% on your costs.

Adele MacGregor

Having written for PerformanceIN, WalesOnline, Grazia Magazine and The Olive Press, Adele now writes advice articles for home movers, first-time buyers and house sellers alike.

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