Conservation Areas are areas that a Local Authority considers to have “special historical and architectural interest, the character of which it is desirable to preserve and enhance”. They exist specifically to protect the historical or architectural interest of a location or building. They are found throughout the whole of England, with every Local Authority having at least one; in total, there are over 10,000 in England. You can find out if your property is in a Conservation Area by contacting the Local Planning Authority where the property is located. This information will also be revealed in a Local Authority Search, which is usually conducted when purchasing a property.
How do you obtain planning in a Conservation Area?
If your property is located in a Conservation Area, you may find that it is subject to additional planning conditions or restrictions to preserve the historical or architectural features of the property. You will often find that there are special controls on the property protecting certain aspects such as doors, windows, and guttering, which can be anything from the colour that they must be painted to the material that they are made out of and will depend solely on the protected feature and the individual Local Authority. With properties of a certain age, it might be that you will need to apply for planning permission to replace the doors or windows. These controls are known as Article 4 Directions.
It is often more difficult to obtain planning permission to carry out works at a property in a Conservation Area, and you will also find that you will not be able to carry out any Permitted Development rights works on your property. This means that where you would not usually need to obtain planning permission to complete works, you will need to submit a planning application to the Local Planning Authority.
A Conservation Area does not necessarily mean that you will not be able to get planning permission; you may find that it does not affect you in any way. However, it is important to know if you live in one and if there are any conditions or restrictions that apply to your property should you, one day, decide to alter or extend it and find that you cannot without breaching planning law.
Can an area you bought a property in become a Conservation Area later on?
Local Authorities have a discretionary power to designate areas that they consider to have special historical or architectural features as a Conservation Area, i.e. they do not require the authority of any other Government body to do this. However, they must be careful when using such power and follow guidance. In particular, “when considering the designation of Conservation Areas, Local Planning Authorities should ensure that an area justifies such status because of its special architectural or historical interest and that the concept of conservation is not devalued through the designation of areas that lack special interest”. This means that any consideration of designating a Conservation Area is a lengthy process, with considerations made regarding the location and whether it is of enough special interest to be a Conservation Area.
What happens if you were to fail to comply with planning permission in Conservation Areas?
The Local Planning Authority has Listed Building Officers and/or Conservation Officers who enforce the conditions and restrictions imposed on properties in a Conservation Area.
If you were to carry out work without first obtaining planning permission, you are able to apply for planning permission retrospectively. However, this is not recommended as your application is not guaranteed to be accepted even if the works have already been completed. If your application is rejected, you may find that the Local Planning Authority may request that you reinstate the property and remove any unauthorised additions or alterations. If you fail to comply with the request, then the Local Planning Authority could serve an Enforcement Notice upon you and, ultimately, if the Enforcement Notice is not complied with, commence court proceedings.
Trees in a Conservation Area
Trees in a Conservation Area are considered to be protected; if you propose to carry out works to a tree, such as lopping, cutting down or uprooting, then you will need to apply for the consent of the Local Planning Authority and give at least 6 weeks notice of the intended works. The Local Planning Authority will then consider if the tree is important to the historical or architectural interest of the area. If they decide it is, then a Tree Preservation Order shall be issued, and you will often find that you must comply with certain conditions if your request is approved. If the Local Authority does not consider the tree important to the historical or architectural interest, they will either give consent or let the notice period lapse.
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