The streets and buildings of our towns and villages are part of the historic character of England. Where these places are of special architectural or historic interest, they can be designated as conservation areas.
However, this does not mean that they have to remain frozen in time, change is often necessary to accommodate the demands of modern living.
When conservation areas are the subject of proposals for new development, it has to preserve or enhance, rather than harm, their special character. There are more than 9,700 conservation areas in England.
What Requires Consent and How Do I Apply?
Conservation Area Consent is required for the total or substantial demolition of any unlisted building within a conservation area.
Conservation Area Consent is administered by the local authority. It is recommended that you first contact the local authority Conservation Officer or Development Control Officer to discuss what work you are proposing to carry out. They will be able to advise on whether or not you will need Conservation Area Consent (as well as any other permissions that may be relevant). This simple act could save you a lot of time and money.
Local authorities often prepare Supplementary Planning Documents for their conservation areas to assist residents and developers, so it is worth checking with the Conservation Officer to see if one exists for the conservation area in question.
Application forms for Conservation Area Consent are available either to download from their web sites or in hard copy. Advice and guidance can also be obtained by visiting the government's planning portal web site. It usually takes between 8 and 13 weeks for a decision to be made, depending on the size and complexity of the proposal.
If consent is refused you have six months in which you can appeal, or you can alter your plans, based on the written advice provided, and re-apply. Applying for Conservation Area Consent is free.
When a Council considers whether to grant or to refuse an application, it must have special regard to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the conservation area, and those features which make it special. Therefore you should also consider these issues when planning proposed changes.
Work Not Requiring Consent
Local authorities also have additional powers under planning legislation (eg Article 4 Directions) to control changes that might normally be permitted elsewhere. For example, this can include certain types of cladding, inserting dormer windows, and putting up satellite dishes that are visible from the street.
Furthermore, anyone proposing to cut down, top or lop a tree in a conservation area, whether or not it is covered by a Tree Preservation Order, has to give notice to the local authority. The authority can then consider the contribution the tree makes to the character of the area and if necessary make a Tree Preservation Order to protect it.
What Happens If I Carry Out Work Without Consent?
Carrying out works that require Conservation Area Consent, without having first obtained that Consent, is a criminal offence and might result in prosecution. A planning authority can insist that all work undertaken without consent is reversed.
Consent can be applied for retrospectively but there is no guarantee that this will be given and prosecution may still take place.
How Is English Heritage Involved?
The role of English Heritage is to help local authorities use their powers and resources to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of their conservation areas. In Greater London only, English Heritage must be notified of applications for the demolition of a building in a conservation area.
Applications by the local authorities for their own buildings have to be referred to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and English Heritage's advice will be sought as appropriate.