Derek Inkpin from local solicitors Wiseman Lee talks about conservation areas, the restrictions they impose on homeowners and, ultimately, the benefits they create for the common good
There are about 10,000 conservation areas in the UK, which says something for the ageing housing stock as well as parks, historic town centres and canals we have in this country.
Whilst newly built houses have their advantages, many people are drawn to buying in a conservation area with its protected neighbourhood status. Interestingly, research has revealed there is a premium of about 9% to be added to the valuation of conservation area houses. Many of these are in our communities of north-east London and west Essex, with their architectural features and picturesque surroundings.
Consequently, it is known there are conservation area restrictions on the type of work you can carry out on your property. Beware, therefore, of the strict penalties if, as a houseowner, you break the rules. The restrictions vary from one area to another according to what is set by the local authority.
The normal permitted development rights that benefit houseowners are displaced in conservation areas if the council imposes Article 4 Directions, which then lay down specific restrictions on what you can do to improve your home. Consent will be required, for example, if you want to demolish a gate, wall or fence of over one metre in height if it borders the road or higher than two metres if it does not. Permission is also required for cladding, side extensions, new construction of sheds, outbuildings and swimming pools or if you wish to install satellite equipment which faces the road. Solar panels also have restrictions as well as alterations to roofs. Even changing the colour of window frames and doors and the lopping of trees are caught by these rules. Lack of knowledge if you carry out such works without permission is no defence.
It follows that talking to your council at an early stage is vital because failure to do so could ultimately be punished by a substantial fine or, at worst, a two-year prison sentence. On the plus side, some councils offer grant aid for the extra costs and, of course, the additional protection does mean you will not see poor quality development, thereby making your area more desirable.
If you have carried out work on your home before the conservation area rules in your community came into force you can perhaps count your blessings, because such works following these rule changes may prevent you from proceeding or force you to reduce the extent of the building work you have in mind.
This is one more example of restrictions being placed on individual freedoms because of the ‘common good’ argument which conservation areas are intended to achieve.
Wiseman Lee is located at 9–13 Cambridge Park, Wanstead, E11 2PU. For more information, call 020 8215 1000