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Everything You Need to Know About Buying in a Conservation Area

Phi Spencer

By Phil Spencer

If you’re looking for a truly unique property, consider buying one in a conservation area.

However, before you rush in and sign on the dotted line, be sure you know exactly what it entails to own property in a conservation area.

Here’s everything you need to know about buying in a conservation area.

What is a conservation area?

A conservation area is an area of special architectural or historical interest. It has been designated by the local council as such, to help preserve and enhance the area’s character and appearance – essentially all the features that make it unique and distinctive.

If you don’t know whether your property is in a conservation area or not, you can find out by contacting the local planning authority.

They will be able to tell you:

  • When the conservation area was created.
  • How far the conservation area extends.
  • Why it was deemed a conservation area.
  • The level of legal protection the conservation area has in place.

What impact does buying in a conservation area have on your property?

Extra controls are in place in conservation areas.

The level of restrictions placed on properties in a conservation area are there to keep the area special. The only real impact it will have on you, is if you want to:

  • Alter the outside of your property. Any exterior works that you want to do, i.e. replace doors, windows, guttering etc. you will have to apply for planning permission from your local authority.
  • Demolish your property. Even unlisted buildings in a conservation area count towards its uniqueness, and the loss of any buildings could have a potential impact on the wider conservation area. For this reason, you must seek planning permission to demolish any building over 115 cubic square metres.
  • Cut down trees. Any works that you wish to do to trees on your property, you will have to notify the proper authority, 6 weeks in advance of the works commencing. The local authority can then decide on the level of contribution the tree makes to the area, and if necessary, create a Tree Prevention Order.
  • Affect the biodiversity of the area. Protected species and habitats need to be considered if you are considering building works.
  • Carry out minor works. Any simple minor works that you would normally not need to consider seeking permission for, you will have to seek permission for in a conservation area. Even putting up a satellite dish might require permission. Normally where you could do work under permitted development rights, this right is restricted for properties in a conservation area.

How to deal with planning application resistance or rejection

Should you anticipate coming up against resistance, you could always seek professional assistance to aid you in pre-planning. Consider using a local architect who has experience with the local planning authority’s requirements.

If your planning application is met with objections, don’t be disheartened, the planning authority will provide you with feedback as to why it was or will be rejected. Talk to the department if you still don’t understand - ask them if changing your plans will help.

You can usually submit new/modified plans, free of charge, within 12 months of submitting the original plans.

Alternatively, if you think the rejection is unreasonable, you can appeal. This, however, should only be done as a last resort!

Your maintenance obligations

If a property falls in a conservation area, you have the responsibility to repair and maintain it, without loss of its character or integrity.

Failure to do so could result in the local authority serving you with an Urgent Works Notice.

You are encouraged to repair a property in a conservation area, rather than replace parts, with replacements only being deemed suitable if they enhance the appearance or character of the area.

Repairs should be carried out using original designs, methods and materials.

Before you buy in a new area, ensure you’ve done your research thoroughly. Phil Spencer's Property Report can do this for you! A full report contains information on everything from a property's title register, residents and neighbours to local schools. Get your report here!

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