Conservation Areas: Why Are They So Important?

As a company that has extensive experience with home renovations in London, we have conquered many obstacles and restrictions found throughout the design and planning process. There are typically more limitations for ground floor extensions, compared to loft conversions which often fall under permitted development rights. It may be difficult to obtain permission for home improvement proposals when faced with certain restrictions enforced by the local planning authority.

Today, we would like to focus on Conservation Areas; why they exist, how they are chosen, and how they affect you. You might be surprised to learn how much this designation has contributed to the preservation of British history.

What is a Conservation Area?

This is an area of significant environmental or historical interest protected against any unwanted changes, preserving the character and appearance of the area, by law. This local protection was introduced in 1967, with the aim to help define the overall identity of English cities and towns. Unlisted buildings are protected from demolition, which requires Full Planning Permission. These spaces only take up around 2.2% of England, though this number is rising steadily, with 59% of these located in rural areas and 41% in urban. Furthermore, Conservation Areas help to preserve buildings with architectural styles and landscapes that are strongly connected with a certain period, enriching the culture within these communities. Think Rome, Cairo, and Prague.

How are Conservation Areas picked?

There are approximately 10,000 Conservation Areas in England, with each local authority having at least one. These areas are often valued by locals as special places that help define their town/city’s identity. They are designated by the local planning authority, Historic England, or the Secretary of State, depending on the type of item being protected. Although it greatly impacts the people living within these communities, local planning authority have no obligation to hold a public consultation before designation, though these are encouraged to gather public support.

What does it mean for you?

Rules within a Conservation Area are tailored to each council, but generally, residents within these boundaries are only allowed to make minimal changes to the exterior of their properties. Furthermore, home improvement proposals would be put under additional scrutiny from local planning authorities, even if the homeowner just wants to paint a few bricks to the front of their house. This also covers the landscaping around a property, as any changes to the trees and shrubbery that live within the property’s boundary must be deliberated too.

The Advantages

If your home sits in a Conservation Area, the value of your property may go up and up. It has been observed that the value of such properties appreciates much faster, depending on the year of designation (like an antique). The increase in housing prices could be due to the well-preserved character of the neighbourhood, and the green, peaceful residential environment. The visual coherence within the community promotes a strong sense of togetherness, which is greatly appreciated by the locals.

Although it has its obstacles, most residents living in these Conservation Areas have had a positive experience with planning, as they understand the enforced restrictions contribute to an attractive neighbourhood overall. Furthermore, repairing a building is better than demolishing and reconstructing one, as it is can be more economical and environmentally friendly. Demolition can cause a lot of disruption to the surroundings, destroys a piece of history, and is harder (planning-wise) to carry out due to objections.

The Disadvantages

Due to the restrictions that accompany a protected area, carrying out alterations to these houses can be a long and arduous task. Firstly, approval for a home extension is difficult to obtain, especially if it affects the building’s façade. Not that it is out of the question, but it will require Full Planning Permission, along with other supporting documents such as Fire Safety reports and Design and Access statements. This also includes proposals for pruning trees, painting a house’s exterior, replacing a window, etc. Neighbours are also 40% more likely to object to a proposal, as they are worried it would impose a loss of light, view, or street character. Finally, expenses in Conservation Areas may be higher than average, possibly due to the added cost of maintaining the space.

Thankfully, our fabulous team can help prepare your planning application with all the necessary documents, so you don’t have to worry about these obstacles.

Overall, these designated Conservation Areas are incredibly important for preserving the rich culture and long history of England. Although they can cause a bit of trouble when it comes to making alterations to a property, they are in place for a good cause and provide long-term benefits to our communities.

Do you live in a Conservation Area and want to make some changes to your home? We would love to help makes your dreams a reality! If you would like to speak with us about your project, whether it is in a protected area or not, you can contact our friendly team on 02070432378. Alternatively, you can email us at hello@hometales.co.uk, or book a free telephone consultation here.


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