When you are buying a house in a conservation area you need to consider the implications and potential restrictions of buying property in a conservation area. Properties situated in a conservation area will probably be subject to planning controls.
What is a Conservation Area?
Section 69 of Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservations Areas) Act 1990 enables local Councils to designate areas of special architectural or historic interest as Conservation Areas. The first conservation areas were designated in 1967. There are over 8000 conservation areas in England and over 500 in Wales. These areas can be buildings, parks, greens or even street furniture. Many conservation areas are residential in nature.
Is the Property in a Conservation Area?
It may not be obvious from viewing a property whether it is in a conservation area. You can find out by contacting the local authority. Alternatively, when your offer has been accepted your Lawyer will receive draft contracts from the seller’s Lawyer.
Usually the seller will complete a Property Information Form which forms part of the contract. This form contains relevant information such as who is responsible for the boundaries, what works have been undertaken at the property etc. The form also asks the seller to confirm if the property is in a conservation area.
Your Property Lawyer will also submit searches on your behalf which will reveal if the property is situated in a conservation area. For complete information see What Property Searches Do I Need and Why?
What Does Living in a Conservation Area Mean?
If you are thinking of buying property in a conservation area you need to consider potential restrictions on the property and the additional consents you will require if you wish to change the use of the property.
Some common issues where you will be required to obtain consent/permission prior to any changes being made are:
- Installing solar panels or even satellite dishes will usually require permission.
- Making alterations to the property such as adding conservatories or extensions will require permission from the local authority.
- If you are thinking of removing/pruning a tree you will again be required to obtain consent from the local authority before starting this work.
- If you want to remove a building or out-house you will need to apply to the Council for permission which may be refused.
- If you want to replace windows or doors or even alter gutters you will usually require permission before you do so.
What are the Penalties?
Making changes in a conservation area without consent can be expensive and unlawful. It is important to discuss any potential changes with your Lawyer prior to exchange of contracts. If the property is in a conservation area and works have been completed at the property your Lawyer will be required to obtain local authority consents before you can exchange contracts.
- Section 74 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 states it is a criminal offence to demolish a building in a conservation area without planning permission.
- The maximum penalty is two years imprisonment or an unlimited fine.
Do not assume by buying in a conservation area the Council will automatically provide consent, this is not the case. Ensure you check the position with your Lawyer, not only what works the seller has undertaken but also what works you may want to carry out at the property.
At Co-op Legal Services we work with experienced Conveyancing Lawyers who can advise you if the property you are buying is in a conservation area.