A Conservation Area is a designated location that is desirable because of the (mainly) historical or special architecture situated there. So it’s not surprising to learn that the UK is home to a plethora of Conservation Areas, thanks to its rich and colourful cultural and social history.
Although an historic building is an important landmark, quite often the setting and surrounding that it is set in are just as significant. A conservation area doesn’t necessarily automatically refer to the multitude of grand, old castles and aristocratic homes and their grounds that are peppered across the country. A conservation area can encompass all manner of buildings, from a row of small cottages, to a street of town houses or even a whole district of socially, aesthetically or culturally important buildings and landscapes. These significant historic buildings can become part of an area that needs preserving and protecting and from arbitrary or imprudent changes.
Regulating and Preserving
If you live or are planning to move into a Conservation Area, you may not be aware of some of the regulations designed to protect these special locations. A dwelling in a Conservation Area has certain limitations placed up on the permitted development rights, and both you and your builder or architect should be aware of exactly what these limitations are before you start any building work.
These limitations are issued by the local Council over a particular area, and Conservation areas are subject to what is known as an Article 4 Direction. The idea is that by removing normal permitted development rights, planning permission has to be sought to that any changes can be strictly regulated and controlled to retain the character of the area.
So the buildings within a Conservation Area are protected by law, and so any alterations, additions or demolishment must have to gained planning permission or conservation area consent from your relevant council authority. If you go ahead and make any changes without consent, you could very well find yourself facing prosecution.
But that is not to say that all changes will be refused and outlawed – after all, Conservation Areas are often part of an otherwise normal, thriving community that needs to change in order to remain thriving and prosperous. But at the same time, the character of an area needs to be preserved, so if you are planning on erecting a garden building in a conservation area, planning permission or conservation area consent will probably need to be sought to ensure that the proposed buildings are sympathetic to their surroundings.
Garden Buildings and Conservation Areas
Garden buildings in conservation areas are also commonly affected by the extra regulations that affect changes or additions to the main dwelling. Planning permission can sometimes relate to otherwise ancillary garden buildings such as a garden shed, log cabin, summerhouse and even a greenhouse. In some cases, the planning permission consent requirements are more specific, in that they might relate to specific areas within your property where planning permission will need to be sought for any extensions or building work. Typically this might include instances where your proposed garden building will be seen from the road, a waterfront, path or other open spaces.
But in many cases, a simple garden shed or greenhouse, if situated in a rear garden and under a certain size limitation (which can vary from council to council) can be erected without going through the rigmarole of conservation area consent or planning permission.
If you are planning on demolishing any existing garden outbuildings in a Conservation area, you will certainly need to contact your council beforehand to check whether it will be allowed. This applies even if you are only planning on demolishing a small portion of the building – conservation area consent will probably still need to be sought.
Help Secure Consent
If you are keen to add a new garden building to your property within a Conservation Area, then there are ways to help secure planning permission and conservation area consent. The whole ethos behind a Conservation Area is that any changes or additions are in keeping and sympathetic to the surroundings – so this should be the case with your proposed new development, however small. You want to keep any new developments completely in character – the longer they look like they’ve been in situ, perhaps all the better. Keeping in character means that you should consider factors such as size and proportion in relation to the surroundings, materials, architectural style and location of the structure.
For example, you may want to erect a building for use as a retreat or garden office. Typically many of these buildings are pre-fabricated timber clad structures that resemble decorative garden sheds, summerhouses or even a large log cabin. But if your house is built from a local stone, and any other outbuildings are made from the same stone, then it might help your cause if you plan to source local natural stone to complement the existing structures. A planned overly large modern log cabin for a garden office may be considered as completely out of place, and won’t be allowed.
So the best advice is to have a good idea of what changes you want to make, and try your best to make them so that they’re in keeping with the locality before you approach your council for consent. In a conservation area, you should never assume that your proposed garden building will be accepted – consent first, build later!