By Margaux Black

What exactly is a conservation area?

These are districts around the UK that have been noted to have important historical standing, due to the era and style of the buildings. They are protected to retain their stunning look and keep the areas full of character and history, which is why they are such coveted regions.

When embarking on a renovation project in one of these conservation areas, there will come with it a plethora of things to consider and hurdles to jump over in order to make certain changes to your property.

Generally speaking, all houses in a conservation area have strict guidelines around the outward appearance of a house, as this is what really dictates the look of the area as a whole. If you want to demolish a building, gate, fence, wall or railing, or there is any impact to a footpath or bridleway, you will need to acquire prior consent.

An easy way to keep things easy for the exterior look of renovating a house in a conservation area is to use the same materials that exist in the current construction of your house. When abiding by these rules, it will become a lot easier for you to make the desired updates.  Generally, these historical houses are made from brick, timber, lime mortar with wooden framing and slate or tile roofs, all of which materials are still very much in circulation around the UK – and easy to get your hands on. If your particular house has more recent fixtures and fittings in areas such as the kitchen or bathroom, or if the paint on the walls is of a more modern time, these can be changed without too much worry on consent, especially as they do not impact the outward look of the property, assuming your property is not listed.

When it comes to getting the right permissions, some aspects will come under more examination than others. When it comes to form and layout, the physical footprint of the house, the external features and the relationship of the property to the neighbouring buildings, these areas will need to be extremely carefully considered. Applications for these types of changes are more likely to be approved if the appearance of the property is not altered. If you are looking to make an extension, as long as you are using traditional materials and techniques (as above) there shouldn’t be any issue with the approval process.

Those who decide on whether to approve your proposal will be the LPA planning and conservation officers, they will also take into consideration the area and national planning and conservation area policies. One of the best ways for success, when it comes to making plans, is to work with local builders and architects who have worked on projects similar or have an understanding of the conservation rules within your particular area. If you intend to make a lot of changes, or your application is large and quite significant, it would be beneficial to send it to English Heritage for comment on the planning – this could help you make relevant adjustments before sending it for final approval and speed up the process overall.

On top of getting consent for your physical house, trees and landscape also play an important part of the process. Much greenery has a significant impact on the look and character of a place, which is why a lot of trees are also protected within a conservation area. If the trees on your property are 75mm or wider in diameter, or over 1.5 metres tall, they will need prior consent for trimming or cutting. LPA should be notified at least six weeks in advance to make a decision on whether or not you can, in fact, alter the trees on your property. Damaging or removing a tree in a conservation area without consent comes with some serious consequences, as it is considered an offence – so getting your consent in is a definite must for any landscaping plans.

If, after all your work, your application is denied (or if it takes over eight weeks for you to hear back) you have the right to appeal the application to the Planning Inspectorate, which may require you to state your case and practice your negotiating skills to get the changes you want finally approved.

All in all, conservation renovations are one of the more complicated projects to undertake, but it will be worth the hassle to make your stunning house a home that is both historically significant and also liveable for you.

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Would you like some guidance in carrying out a historical home renovation? Refresh can help you with every stage; including consent applications, design, build and project management. Get in touch today to arrange a free consultation. 

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