But it’s in a conservation area…

6 September 2019

“There is a great deal of scope for people living in conservation areas, but we always try to steer people towards the principles of good design and a collective responsibility to protect our built heritage".

This is the response we often receive when advising private individuals, architects, builders and developers on what householders can do to their homes under permitted development. There is still a widely held belief that if your property is in a conservation area (article 2(3) land) you can do very little to it without express planning permission. In actual fact, homeowners can do rather a lot in conservation areas under permitted development subject to certain factors and conditions. In our experience, this misconception is often because people have been mis-informed. Indeed, we were told by a planning officer a couple of years ago that whilst the replacement of a door with a window in a conservation area is covered by permitted development, replacing a window with a door isn’t!  Applications are being submitted up and down the country for works that do not require planning permission, and in many cases, permission is refused.

Last month Planning Potential obtained a lawful development certificate (CLOPD) for fairly substantial fenestration changes to the front and rear facades of a house in London. This included the relocation and replacement of windows and doors and the installation of a large arched window at the rear extending from ground floor all the way up to the fourth floor. This arched window was key to the client’s plans to install an impressive internal spiral staircase within their home. The CLOPD was particularly valuable because the officer’s report indicated that the window would not have been supported had it been applied for as part of a planning application. We are currently preparing planning applications for alterations to the roof which do require planning permission, but not because of the conservation area designation – they are rooftop works that would require consent in any circumstance.

Part 1, Class A of the GPDO allows you to make various alterations to the façades of houses irrespective of whether they are located in a conservation area or not, subject to conditions. The key one being that the materials used in any exterior work (excluding conservatories) must be of a similar appearance to those used in the construction of the exterior of the existing dwelling house. Recent case law has established that the existing material does not necessarily need to be predominant on the property – there just needs to be one example of it for the works to be permitted development. 

You can even build extensions under Part 1, Class A, there are just a few additional criteria and conditions you need to meet by virtue of being in a conservation area. The only exceptions are the recent permitted development rights introduced to give greater flexibility to householders through the construction of 6 and 8 metre rear extensions under the prior approval route – these extensions are not permitted development in conservation areas.

You can also carry out external painting in whatever colour you like under Part 2, Class C, and make changes to boundary treatments, including brick walls, subject to certain conditions under Part 2, Class A.

Of course, none of the above applies to listed buildings, and you need to look out for Article 4 Directions and historical conditions, both of which can remove permitted development rights.

It is always advisable to seek advice on such matters and to obtain a CLOPD to confirm that the proposed works do not require express planning permission, particularly if you are selling a property.  Thought also needs to be given to the timing of applications and the sequencing of the implementation of works in instances where some of the proposals are permitted development and some require express planning permission.

With all that said, whilst there is a great deal of scope for people living in conservation areas, we should of course always try to steer people towards the principles of good design and a collective responsibility to protect our built heritage.

If you would like advice on any of the above, please do get in touch.

Katie Turvey, Associate Director