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Planning Permission in a Conservation Area

The purpose of conservation areas is to protect and enhance areas of special architectural or historical interest. This means there are far more stringent regulations on what you are able to build in these areas. Conservation areas can come in many different forms including the centres of old cities, areas near significant landmarks, country estates and other more obscure factors and due to the more strict rules on developments, getting planning permission in a conservation area can be a difficult task.

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Conservation areas are designated by local planning authorities and can change over time. There are over 10,000 conservation areas in the UK but there is no publically available national database of conservation areas in the country. In order to find out if your home is in a conservation area you can either access your local planning authority's website, however, if they don't have an online map you will need to contact the council directly.

When Do I Need Planning Permission in a Conservation Area?

The main rules for developments that will need planning permission in a conservation area include, but are not limited to:

Extension - Any extension other than for those that fall under "permitted development", however, in our experience your property will almost always have had its permitted development rights withdrawn if you're in a conservation area.

Windows - Replacement or new windows must be in keeping with the appearance of the rest of the building.

Recladding - A building in a conservation area will need planning permission before the outside can be cladded with stone, pebble dash, render, timber, plastic or tiles.

Outbuildings - Homeowners in a conservation area will require planning approval to build an outbuilding to the side of a property, although there are also restrictions on heights and development area for outbuildings.

Trees - If you intend to carry out work on any tree that has a diameter of more than 75mm 1.5m from the ground in a conservation area you will need to notify the local planning department.

Demolition - Removal of the whole of a building will require planning permission and removal of just part of a building may also still need it. In cases of part demolition a pre application consultation may be advisable; however, these can cost a few hundred pounds so you may be better off calling us and asking our advice for free.

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The Cost and Time of Conservation Area Planning Applications

Unfortunately, planning applications cost, and cost a lot, so making sure your application is spot on, giving it the greatest chance of approval, is so important. Most householder planning applications for extensions and larger home improvement projects in conservation areas cost over £200 and take approximately 8 weeks, but that's after the application has been validated and a deadline date provided, and that can take at least an additional week, so in our experience receiving planning approval takes between 9-10 weeks from digital submission to the planning portal. A question we seem to get all the time from our clients during the planning process is "can you chase the council for an early decision?" and our answer is always the same "of course but… the council almost never provide planning decisions before the deadline date", unfortunately, in recent years councils have become more and more overloaded with applications and not enough staff to process them.

Getting Planning Permission in a Conservation Area

While obtaining planning permission on a property in a conservation area is certainly more difficult than in other areas, with the help of an experienced planning consultant, the process can be far more straightforward than you might expect. You will need high quality designs that show how the development will protect and enhance the local area. This does not mean simply mimicking the style of buildings in the area as it's often more desirable to local planning authorities that a new development make a positive contribution to the character of the area in order to enhance rather than copy. The materials used for the proposed development are also important as they will need to reflect the style of the local area. However, it's more important that the materials used are of a high quality and will enhance the appearance of the area.

When you come to apply for planning permission in a conservation area it's important that your application shows that you have clearly considered the aspects relating to the particular conservation area you are in and that you show extensive knowledge of the area's history and natural landscape. This process can be difficult and you will need to pay a fee for every application you send so it's important to get it right. Therefore, hiring professional planning consultants, such as ourselves, will massively increase your chances of getting planning permission in a conservation area and save you money and time on failed applications.

Planning Application in South Hampstead Conservation area in London - Case Study

We were contacted by a construction partner of ours, who were contracted to build a large extension to a flat in Swiss Cottage in London, regarding planning drawings and ultimately obtaining planning approval for their upcoming project.

The property in question whilst not listed was mentioned in the Appendix of 'South Hampstead Conservation Area, Character Appraisal and Management Strategy' document as a property that contributes to the character of the immediate surroundings and the Conservation Area as a whole and as such there were a number of specific regulations we needed to comply with.

To appease any concerns the Conservation Officer at Camden Council had, we provided an in depth design and access statement as well as our usual detailed planning drawings. Within our design and access statement we stated "The study extension will be constructed with the same floor level as the existing house, and as a consequence of the rising ground towards the North East will largely be obscured from the road by the existing garden wall. Consequently it is assed there will be little visual impact on the Conservation Area". We were extremely pleased to have successfully obtained planning permission, especially in a conservation area, for our client and look forward to more projects with them in the future.

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