What do I need to consider about buying in a conservation area?
Published 18 February 2020
The title ‘conservation area’ is the name given to an area of special architectural or historical interest, as determined by the local council. Although it requires homeowners to seek permission to carry out substantial repairs or alterations to their homes, it is not generally as onerous as owning a listed property.
The main purpose of a conservation area is to help preserve and enhance the locality’s character and appearance – basically all that makes it unique and distinctive. This is essentially a good thing, as is it serves to protect the environment and biodiversity around your home, thereby preserving and enhancing value and desirability. Your local planning authority would be able to tell you why and when the conservation area was created, and how far it extends.
Most people want to understand what buying in a conservation area will mean for their property ownership. The only real impact it will have is if you want to make exterior alteration or improvement works for which you will have to apply for planning permission from your local authority.
Normally where you could do work under permitted development rights, this right is restricted for properties in a conservation area. Even minor works for which you would not normally need to seek permission - like removing or pollarding trees, replacing windows and gutters or even putting up a satellite dish - you will have to seek permission for in a conservation area.
If you’re planning on buying in a conservation area, and you know you will want to make changes to the property, it’s best to check with the local authority before you offer to buy. We are fortunate in Norfolk to work with helpful and cooperative local authorities, and information is readily available online or by telephone or email.
The best advice is to plan ahead, and ask the local authority at least six weeks before you plan to make any such changes, thereby avoiding the dreaded enforcement notice requiring restoration, which could be costly and frustrating.
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