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Top tips on buying in a Conservation Area

Introduced over fifty years ago to protect the features that make a place unique and distinctive, living within a Conservation Area is different from owning a listed property. Here we explain how and why.

A bit of background

The first Conservation Areas were introduced in the Civic Amenities Act of 1967. They came about as a result of discussions that began in the early 1960s—a time during which much post-war building work was taking place and car ownership increasing exponentially driving a demand for parking places and car parks—about how to preserve some of the best examples of urban- and village-based built heritage throughout the UK.

It started with a designation of “Gem Towns” which identified 51 towns that were considered to be particularly special. They included towns such as Lewes in East Sussex and Marlborough in Wiltshire. The first Conservation Areas were to be created in a few specific towns, including York, Chester, Chichester and Bath, then they grew in number. Today there are over 10,000, and, with the support of locals and the authorities, are continuing to be enacted.


What are Conservation Areas?

Unlike the listing system which grades houses (and other buildings) of architectural importance as Grade I, II* or II, Conservation Areas aren’t just about historic buildings. In fact, the majority of area designations (59%) cover open spaces such as rivers, canals and fields. The bulk of them are in the South East: London there are just over 1,000 and the Cotswolds boasts 144, the highest number of any local authority.


What does it mean to live in a Conservation Area?

Actual restrictions on what owners can do will vary according to rules established by the local authority but they can cover changes to railings, street lighting, trees and types of windows (for example banning the replacement of timber windows with uPVC ones). In particularly cases, decorative details of the exterior of the house will fall under the restrictions dictating for example what colours are allowed to be used on the front doors.


What are the planning restrictions in Conservation Areas?

Known as Article 4 Directions, they limit the changes that owners can make under permitted development rights covering elements such as roof extensions, cladding, extensions that are larger than a single storey, installing satellite dishes and fitting solar panels. It means that anyone hoping to make any of these changes to their property will have to seek planning permission from the local authority before embarking.


Are house price values affected?

Yes. It’s been a while since the latest study was undertaken (in 2012, by the London School of Economics) but that revealed that houses in conservation areas sell for a premium of 9% on average.


Best advice when buying?

If the idea of owning a property with restrictions in place is a concern, buy on the edge of a Conservation Area. You get all the benefits of living next to a very pretty area or protected countryside without any of the restrictions on your own property.


Properties for sale in Conservation Areas

Perfect cottage in Petersfield

This three-bedroom cottage just off The Square in Petersfield, one of the earliest Conservation Areas in the town, is Grade II listed and boasts modern interiors alongside period details. There’s a twice-weekly market and the train station serves Waterloo in an hour.
£400,000 through Winkworth Petersfield.

In the heart of Clifton and Montpelier, Brighton

This four-bedroom house sits in the middle of one of Brighton’s most desirable Conservation Areas. It comes with a roof terrace and garden as well as easy access to Brighton mainline train station.
£1.1m through Winkworth Brighton & Hove.

Family house in Harlaxton near Grantham

Harlaxton is an attractive Conservation village in the Vale of Belvoir, just three miles from Grantham, with a primary school, surgery shop and pub. The house has six bedrooms and one-bed annexe.
£950,000 through Winkworth Grantham.

Looking to buy, sell or rent in any of these areas? Get in touch.

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