Who wouldn’t want to buy a house in a desirable residential area? Properties in designated Conservation Areas tend to be particularly attractive, which makes for a pleasant neighbourhood in which to live. But are there any downsides to paying premium prices for the privilege?
What is a Conservation Area?
Section 69 of Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 gives local councils the authority to designate specific areas of land as Conservation Areas that are considered ‘of special architectural of historic interest, the character of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’.
An area can be designated for its buildings or architecture, parks and greens, trees or open spaces, or specific features such as windows, guttering or roofing. The assessment will look apply to a group of buildings in the area rather than an individual property.
After the designation has been made, the local authority will then develop and enforce policies to protect and enhance the desirable features of the area. Every Conservation Area varies in this respect, while local residents will be consulted over any new restrictions and limitations to be introduced.
There are around 8,000 Conservation Areas in England alone, many of which cover residential areas. If the property you are thinking of buying is in a Conservation Area, this will be made clear by the estate agent. Your conveyancing solicitor will provide further specific information about the nature of the Conservation Area and the possible implication for property ownership.
What does this mean for homeowners?
It’s important to recognise that there are significant implications of buying a house a designated Conservation Area.
Properties in a Conservation Area are likely to have restrictions with regard to maintenance and improvement works that can be carried out in so far as they affect the exterior appearance of the property. These restrictions will be specific to the character of your Conservation Area and can apply to replacement windows, roofing, guttering and fencing, exterior paint colours and much more. As a result, any repairs, improvements or extensions are likely to take longer, require local council consent and cost more.
In practical terms, stricter planning controls will apply to a whole range of home improvements and building works. You may be unable to alter the appearance of your house in the way that you want to, and even minor changes may not be allowed. For instance, while there shouldn’t be a problem converting the loft, you may not be able to insert a Velux window into a street facing roof.
Generally protected items such as windows, doors or roofs will obviously require repair and/or replacement over time, but you may well need to find a specialist supplier to deal with these features to comply with Conservation Area regulations. Repairing a rotten period sash window, for instance, will be more costly than a uPVC replacement.
Depending on individual council policies, developing a building in a Conservation Area can be subject to Article 4 Directions, meaning Permitted Development Rights are removed and planning permission must always be obtained prior to any works being carried out. When it comes to demolishing a building in a Conservation Area, failure to obtain proper planning permission constitutes a criminal offence.
Advantages of buying in a Conservation Area
While some potential property purchasers may be put off by these restrictions, many people find that the limitations are outweighed by the benefits of owning a historic and architecturally valuable property asset. What’s more, the additional planning controls can work in your favour, ensuring that home improvements as well as new development in the area is of good quality and will preserve the character of the neighbourhood.
Clearly, if you are attracted to a particular property in a Conservation Area, you’ll be interested in preserving the charm and character of the surrounding area as a whole and wouldn’t dream of doing anything detrimental. Rather than feeling compromised by the limitations on what you can do to the building, they will act as a safeguard to protect the desirability of the entire area.
Living in a Conservation Area also means a sense of shared values among the neighbourhood. After all, other homeowners are likely to be equally passionate about preserving the special character of the area. More often than not, there’s a community spirit with everyone pulling together to take pride in the preservation of a historic area of Britain.
Finally, it should not be forgotten that properties in a Conservation Area are more likely to retain their value, even during periods of economic downturn, while commanding premium prices compared to non-restricted areas nearby.
Many home buyers actively seek out period properties, stating a preference for original features and architecture as a priority. If you sell a property with period features intact and the original character of the building preserved, situated in a Conservation Area that values its architectural and historical integrity, your asset will always be in demand, with higher sale prices to match.