If you’ve found a property that you love and are keen to make an offer, but it’s situated in a conservation area. It’s important to know what that will mean for you if you become its new owner. Owning a house in a conservation area works a bit differently to when you make a conventional house purchase. In this guide, we’ll be looking everything you need to know about buying a house in a conservation area. So, you can decide whether it is definitely the right move for you.
Firstly, what is a conservation area?
A conservation area is defined as an area of land that contains buildings and features of historic and architectural interest. In order to effectively preserve the history and character of these areas, there are legal restrictions in place by local councils. These limit the changes that can be made to the buildings, greenery, and outdoor furniture. There are roughly 10,000 conservation areas across the UK today. Including parks, estates, historic town centres, and even entire villages.
Restrictions on properties in conservation areas can vary depending on the local authority and the type of area they are trying to preserve. For example, the local authority might state that there can’t be any alterations made to trees, street lights, railings, windows, front doors etc. You will likely face a longer list of limitations if you’re buying a listed building.
How will buying a conservation area property impact you?
By purchasing a property in a conservation, you are committing to maintaining it to an acceptable standard. As well as upholding the key historical and architectural elements stated by the local authority. This can mean you don’t have as much freedom to modernise the property and truly put your own stamp on it. Any changes you are able to make with planning permission could be more expensive with extra paperwork to go with it.
However, homes in conservation areas typically increase in value over time. Which will be beneficial in the long term if you ever decide to sell. Not only that but the area around your property won’t ever deteriorate or be removed to make way for more buildings like in other areas. The visual attractiveness of conservation areas and the certainty that they will remain that way often means that conservation area buildings sell for a premium of around 9%.
If you don’t repair and maintain a property within a conservation area in a way that maintains its integrity and character. You could be served with an Urgent Works Notice from the local authority. When maintaining the building, you will be encouraged to make repairs wherever you can rather than replacements. Replacing parts of the property with new components can only be done if they will suitably enhance the appearance and character of the conservation area. Also, any repairs are required to be done in accordance with the original designs, materials, and methods of the property. Taking all this into account, if you’re new to owning a property in a conservation area it can feel like a lot more work and hassle.
What are the planning restrictions on properties in conservation areas?
The restrictions can differ in conservation areas based on a number of different factors. For example, local authorities will often put extra restrictions on properties that are known as ‘Article 4 Directions’. When buying a normal property there are automatic rights that the buyer gets to make home improvements. Along with changes that don’t require planning permission. If you live in a conservation area the changes you can make under these ‘permitted development rights’ will be more limited.
Contact your local authority to understand the specific restrictions that apply to your conservation area. However, generally in a conservation area building, without permission you can’t:
- Take down a gate, wall, or fence that is above 1 metre if it borders the road or over 2 metres if not.
- Demolish a building that is more than 115 cubic metres.
Other planning restrictions
Additionally, you will need permission for any of the below changes:
- Extensions that are more than one storey.
- Roof extensions or changes.
- Side extensions.
- Cladding in any type of material.
- Single storey extensions that go more than 3 metres behind the back wall of the property (or 4 metres if it’s detached).
- New construction of features like sheds, swimming pools, and outbuildings.
- Satellite dishes or antennae installations that face the road.
- Fit solar panels to the front of the roof that face the street by more than 150mm from the roof slope.
- Install chimneys, vents, or flues at the front or side of the property if it faces the road.
- Replace original windows or doors.
- Install solar panels that extend beyond 150mm from the roof.
- Paint the property, doors, or windows in a different colour.
- Felling trees or shrubs.
- Alter the external pipes or guttering.
Due to the limitations on the construction work that can be done on buildings in conservation areas. They can often be less energy efficient than more modern homes. Or older homes that have been updated with double glazing windows, central heating, and insulative cladding. It’s important to keep this in mind when considering a conservation area house. As you could end up spending more than your budget in heating costs during the winter months.
How will you know if a property you’re interested in is located in a conservation area?
The seller or estate agent representing the property should make it clear whether it is based in a conservation area. Despite some of the drawbacks and extra paperwork. It’s a feature that is still considered to be a compelling selling point. Your fixed fee conveyancing solicitor might also be able to confirm it. But it can sometimes be missed in a standard local authority search – so don’t fully rely on this.
The best way to find out is to check the information for yourself. You can do this by looking for the relevant website of the local authority the property is located in. This should give you a list or map of all the conservation areas within the council’s boundaries along with restrictions for each one.
What are the benefits of living in a conservation area?
There are a lot of complexities to living in a conservation area. But it also comes with some advantages that appeal to many buyers. These include:
- Properties in a conservation area are unique with a lot of interesting character and history.
- The area around the property will remain well preserved and attractive, so you can be assured that nothing will change, nor will the beauty of the area be negatively affected.
- Other properties around you will also be part of the conservation area so you won’t have any hassle from a neighbour letting their house fall into disrepair.
- The collective care for the area brings the community together through a feeling of unity, friendliness, and camaraderie.
- Despite being a bit more expensive they hold their value well even in poorer economic climates. The architectural and period features will always be valuable for reselling.
Buying a house in a conservation area can come with challenges but it is also very rewarding and advantageous to the right buyer. If you’re looking to purchase a property in a conservation area. Contact the team at Toomey Legal for a competitive conveyancing quote in Cramlington. We have extensive knowledge and experience in conveyancing and will ensure the process goes as quickly and smoothly as possible ready for you to get the keys to your dream home.