A Tudor house in a conservation area. SAM Conveyancing discuss the risks and benefits of buying a house in a conservation area
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Buying a House in a Conservation Area

(Last Updated: 08/12/2023)
5 min read
Most buyers don't specifically seek out buying a house in a conservation area. They may, however, seek out a period property, in an up-market location, with a certain picturesque look to the neighbourhood. If this is the case for you, then you are likely to find that the property you're looking at buying is in a conservation area.

What is a conservation area?

A conservation area is an area of particular historical and architectural interest. They are protected by laws designed to preserve or enhance the existing architecture and history of the place.

Since the first conservation area was established in the 60's, they have grown to around 10,000 in number and can include parks, estates, canal-sides, town centres and even whole villages.

What does it mean if you're in a conservation area?

Buying a house in a conservation area means that there will be legal restrictions on the changes which can be made to the buildings, greenery and street furniture. These restrictions aim to protect the character and personality, as well as the history of the place.

These restrictions might affect rooves, railings, streetlights, windows, paint colours, trees and hedges. You will have to maintain the property to an acceptable standard, and there will be further restrictions on planning permission.

Planning restrictions to consider when buying a house in a conservation area

These are general examples of planning restrictions in conservation areas, please visit your local planning authority website to find the specific restrictions in your area.

You cannot carry out any of the following without planning permission
  • Demolish a building over 115 cubic metres (about the size of a double garage)
  • Demolish a gate, wall or fence over 2 metres high (or 1 metre, if it borders the road)
  • Build a single storey extension which extends more than 3 metres from the back wall of the house (or 4 metres if a detached house)
  • Build any extension higher than one storey
  • Build a side extension
  • Extend or alter the roof
  • Clad the building in any material
  • Construct any new outbuilding, shed or pool
  • Erect any new chimneys, flues or vents on the front or road facing-sides
  • Install any road-facing satellite dishes or antennae
  • Fitting solar panels that protrude more that 150mm from the roof
  • Replacing original doors or windows
  • Altering guttering or external pipes
  • Felling trees or shrubs
  • Painting the house
  • Painting the doors or windows a different colour

Remember that these restrictions apply in addition to regular planning restrictions. You will be subject to even stricter rules if your house is also listed.

Because of the restrictions on building works, conservation properties are usually less energy efficient than more modern homes, or those which have been updated with insulative cladding, double glazing or central heating. Remember to consider this before you fall in love with a fairy tale property, especially if viewing in the summer months. If you over stretch your means to buy the property, you may suffer with fuel poverty later.

Breaking conservation laws can provoke serious consequences.

Illegal works constitute a criminal offence, punishable by up to two years prison time.

We recommend you work with a planning consultant or an architect who is experienced with working in conservation areas to help you make a planning application which has a good chance of approval without having to make lots of costly and time consuming revisions.

Is it good to be in a conservation area?

Now we've gotten through all the rules, there are many reasons why it is good to be in a conservation area.

  • They are particularly beautiful, unique and full of character.
  • As someone who was attracted to the character and history of the building in the first place, you will likely be quite happy to know that the rest of the area will be preserved too. The whole area maintains its unique charm (and value).
  • If a neighbour allows their house to fall into disrepair, the local authority can serve them with an urgent works notice. You benefit from peace of mind, knowing that your neighbourhood will remain tidy and well maintained.
  • The collective care for the area can offer a sense of community, belonging, camaraderie and a welcoming friendly feel.
  • They can be a little more expensive to buy and maintain, but they hold their value well, often even in a wider economic downturn. 'Period features' will always be an asset to your re-sale value.

Frequently Asked Questions
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Written by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Reviewed by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.

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