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Online House Hunter: Moving to a Conservation Area

Alan Cleaver
conserv 300x200 Online House Hunter: Moving to a Conservation Area

Homes in a conservation area: nice - but mind the red tape

THERE’S something every-so slightly smug about living in a Conservation Area. It immediately says ‘nice’, ‘historic’ and many of those other buzz-phrases beloved by the TV property programmes.

But before you sign the dotted line on your new home in a conservation area, just bear in  mind that it comes with a certain responsibility – and more than a few restrictions. And the rules can prove costly if you get them wrong.

There are about 10,000 conservation areas in England alone covering more than one million homes. They were dreamed up in 1967 and protect an area that is deemed to be of particular historic or cultural interest. It can be a street, a square or even a stretch of canal but it’s an area, rather than a specific building. And in these areas – designated by the local council as the planning authority -  there are stronger planning controls. In addition, if your home is listed as well as being in a conservation area you’ll find even more restrictions.

So whether you are looking for a three-bedroom house for sale in Greenwich or a four-bedroom home for sale in Beaconsfield, check first on conservation areas or other restrictive zones.

Any building or demolition work you are considering carrying out will almost certainly require Conservation Area Consent, demanding more details than a straightforward planning application. But you may also need consent if you are doing something as simple as putting up a satellite dish. Solar panels too may come under the rules as can cladding or putting in new windows.

However, it’s not normally a difficult process and, as the rules are designed to safeguard the unique beauty of your area, you should be glad that they exist. It’s quite likely they will safeguard or improve the value of your home as well as the archaeological importance. Give the conservation area officer at the local council a call before buying your home to chat about the implications – if you have an eye on adding a three-storey extension to that chocolate-box cottage, you might be disappointed!

Sadly, there is no online national register of conservation areas but each local council’s website will normally have a listing or map, plus advice on what living in such an area means to the house holder. Take a look at Tower Hamlets’ website for example.

English Heritage has published a report on conservation areas called Valuing Places. It highlights some of the good work done around the country in conservation areas – and some of the good work yet to be done such as the exciting High Street 2012 (or the A11 through the East End as it’s also known). Four conservation areas form the focus for this plan to transform this link to Olympic Park.

Common sense says conservation areas are good news but you need to bear in mind that trimming a tree or having minor house repairs done should mean a call to the conservation area officer first. And check on any other restrictions (listed building, area of archaeological importance etc) as part of your background checks to buying a new home.

* Is living in a conservation area good news or bad? Post your comments below

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