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Since the Civic Amenities Act 1967, over 9,000 conservation areas have been designated as areas of special architectural or historic interest in England alone. Planning law and local requirements apply wherever you live, but if you live in a conservation area, additional conservation area consent may be required if you are planning any building work. Any substantial work on a listed building requires separate permission.
You can find out details of conservation areas in your locality by contacting your planning authority, usually your local council. Many local authorities have separate conservation departments and, if you know the planned works fall within a conservation area, it would be best to contact the relevant conservation department for advice and any published guidance. Your local authority website is a good place to start.
Demolition of buildings and structures within a conservation area generally requires conservation area consent. In a conservation area, you also need permission to demolish a gate, fence, wall or railing over one metre high if it is next to any highway (including a public footpath or bridleway) or a public open space. Listed building consent is required for the following:
- Total or partial demolition of a listed building;
- Any extension to a listed building, whether or not it may be permitted under planning laws alone;
- Any alteration, such as the removal or replacement of doors or windows; or
- Any kind of alteration to the interior fabric of the listed building.
Trees are also protected in a conservation area or if there is a separate tree preservation order. In either case, you need permission to remove a tree or to carry out tree surgery. Turnaround is much quicker than with planning permission and your tree surgeon will probably be able to apply for permission on your behalf.
If your application for conservation area consent is refused, or if it is granted with conditions or not decided within eight weeks of validation, you have the right of appeal to the Secretary of State. Failure to get proper permissions before starting works can result in you having to demolish the work or restore the building to its pre-development state, and can sometimes lead to prosecution. If you are in any doubt, it is best to seek qualified professional advice.
Top tips for planning your project are:
- Begin by researching local conservation areas and other restrictions using the Internet;
- Produce an outline of your main ideas or plans;
- Arrange to meet an official from the local authority conservation and/or planning department for an informal discussion of your plans;
- Discuss your options with legal and other professional advisers;
- Appoint surveyors/architects to help draw up development plans in more detail;
- Arrange further meetings with the relevant local council departments as required;
- Remember, trees are also protected in a conservation area and may be covered by tree preservation orders, regardless of where they are;
- Be aware that failure to get proper permissions before starting works can result in severe penalties; and
- Always seek qualified professional advice before proceeding.