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Buying in a Conservation Area

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

You are mid way through purchasing your dream home and your conveyancer advises you the property is located within a “conservation area”…..what does this mean?

What is a conservation area?

An area that a local authority considers should be designated as an area of special architectural or historic interest, which deserves careful management so as to protect the appearance and character of the area.

Historic England and very occasionally the Secretary of State may also designate in exceptional circumstances.

There are now almost 10,000 conservation areas in England and they are not all buildings. Open areas can also be conservation areas. The Cotswolds has the highest number in England.

What type of areas are usually conservation areas?

They can include:

  • Centres of historic villages/towns/cities;
  • Historic fishing villages;
  • Historic mining villages;
  • Country houses and their grounds;
  • Even some industrial heritage sites.

What does this mean for you?

There will be restrictions upon what you can do to the property which affects the outside appearance. For example, changing windows and doors, the type of building materials used, garden and driveway lay outs, solar panels, satellite dishes etc.

If you plan to do any external works to the property, it is prudent to make contact with your local conservation officer first to discuss what will or will not be acceptable before any formal applications are made. Planning controls will be tighter in these areas and obtaining consent may be more expensive and time consuming.

The local authority may exercise control by the use of an “Article 4 Direction”. This removes some or all permitted development rights for a particular area depending on the nature of the direction.

It is a criminal offence to carry out any demolition works in a conservation area without first obtaining planning consent.

In addition, any proposed works to trees within a conservation area must be notified to the local authority six weeks before such works will commence. This will give the local authority the opportunity to consider how the tree contributes to the character of the area and if these works would be detrimental. They may also consider whether the tree should be protected by a tree preservation order.

Trees subject to a tree preservation order are separately protected and topping, lopping and intentional damage or destruction to trees is prohibited.

A breach of these requirements can result in hefty fines.

If you have particularly ambitious plans for a property located within a conservation area it may be better to steer away. However, if you are set on proceeding, make sure you do your homework before you commit to the purchase to avoid later disappointment.

Benefits of living in a conservation area

Conservation areas are usually aesthetically appealing and tend to be pretty and historic making them a pleasant place to live. Any preserved character features may also mean the property is attractive to future buyers and may boost the value.

Tighter planning requirements will ensure more control over future development within the area and ensure any development is good quality and in keeping with the character of the area.

Finally, even if an area is not designated as a conservation area now, it may well be in the future. As always, if you are considering works to a property or its curtilage, it would be prudent to check the position first with the local authority before undertaking any works.

For further help and advice contact one of our 5 expert conveyancing teams.

Jenny Woodruff


Jenny Woodruff


Jenny is a Partner and head of the Residential Conveyancing Team. She has extensive knowledge of the conveyancing process, including: dealing with freehold and leasehold sales & purchases; new build purchases; remortgages; transfers of equity; shared ownership; help to buy transactions & general property advice.