BYM understanding conservation areas
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Should you buy in a conservation area?

Conservation areas are typically locations full of character and charm, with unique properties desired by many buyers. When it comes to owning a property in such an area, it is crucial that you understand the restrictions and regulations that are imposed by local housing authorities.

Let’s take a look at what conservation areas are, some common restrictions on properties, and how you can obtain planning permission in these areas.

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What is a conservation area?

A conservation area is a designated area of special architectural or historic interest that is recognised and protected for its unique character and significance.

These areas are typically designated by local planning authorities or heritage organisations based on criteria such as architectural merit, historic importance, cultural value, or aesthetic appeal.

The primary objective of conservation areas is to preserve and enhance the distinctive features that contribute to their character, including historic buildings, landscapes, and cultural heritage. Conservation areas can include a range of urban, rural, or coastal landscapes, each reflecting a particular period in history or architectural style.

Find your local Whitegates branch.

What property restrictions are there in conservation areas?

It is common for conservation areas to have restrictions called ‘Article 4 Directions’ that control the development, renovation, and demolition of properties. If you own a property in a conservation area, there are certain adaptations you cannot make to it without permission.

These vary between local planning authorities, but common property restrictions in conservation areas include:

  • Taking down a fence, wall, or gate above the height of 1 metre (2 metres if it does not border the road)

  • Demolishing a building that is over 115 cubic metres in size

  • Multi-storey extensions

  • Roofing changes

  • The replacement of doors and windows

  • Painting the property a different colour

  • The construction of new features.

It’s important to get in touch with your local authority to find out the specific restrictions in your area.

Related: Your guide to buying a converted property

How to obtain planning permission in a conservation area

Obtaining planning permission in a conservation area is typically more complex than in other areas due to the fact that you must adhere to the property restrictions set in that particular area.

Research and consultation

The first step in obtaining planning permission in a conservation area is to carry out thorough research. Consult the local planning authority to understand the specific regulations and guidelines that apply to your area.

Pre-application process

You should seek pre-application advice from the planning authority before submitting your application. This will help you understand any potential issues or concerns and make necessary adjustments to your plans.

Submit a detailed application

Your planning application should include detailed plans, drawings, and documents outlining your proposed project. Ensure that your plans clearly demonstrate that you have carefully considered the character of the conservation area.

Considerations for conservation areas

When preparing your application, consider how your project will impact the conservation area. You may need to make adjustments to preserve the area’s character and appearance.


The planning authority may seek feedback from conservation groups or residents. Be prepared to address any concerns or objections raised during this process.

Approval and conditions

If your planning application is approved, you will be subject to certain conditions that you must adhere to during the construction process. Ensure that you understand and comply with these conditions.

Related: Selling your city abode for a slice of country living

What penalties are there for breaking the rules?

It is crucial that you abide by your local housing authority’s regulations, as failure to do so can result in serious penalties.

In cases where unauthorised development is ongoing or imminent, local authorities may issue stop notices to halt construction activities immediately. Failure to comply with a stop notice can result in further enforcement action and potential prosecution.

Local planning authorities also have the power to issue enforcement notices to individuals that have carried out unauthorised development or renovations within conservation areas. Serious breaches of conservation area rules, such as significant unauthorised alterations to listed buildings or significant disregard for planning regulations, may lead to prosecution. Offenders may face fines, court costs, and even imprisonment in severe cases.

Why own property in a conservation area?

Despite the regulations and potential penalties that can be imposed, buying land or property in a conservation area shouldn’t be viewed in a negative light.

As a property owner in a conservation area, you can contribute to the preservation of these valuable assets for future generations. These areas are usually very picturesque, with historic charm and architectural character that brings a good quality of life and a sense of community.

Properties located in conservation areas also often command higher resale values, as the restrictions on development and alterations help maintain the area's character and desirability, making it an attractive location for buyers and investors.

The enduring appeal of well-preserved heritage features and the limited supply of properties contribute to a more stable investment environment.

Looking for a property in a conservation area? Contact your local Whitegates branch today.

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