Should I buy a house in a Conservation Area?

There are some wonderful properties in the Conservation Areas in Kent and East Sussex but buyers need to make sure they understand the strict planning rules designed to preserve the character of these locations.

I love character property and would happily buy in a Conservation Area but it’s important you’re aware of the rules and restrictions.

What is a Conservation Area?

The national legislation allowing local councils to designate Conservation Areas (CA) was introduced in 1967 and today there are approximately 10,000 around the UK.

CA’s were introduced to preserve the unique character of a location and can encompass parks, canals, streets and entire town centres or villages as well as areas of surrounding land with the aim of preserving setting. Their importance is not just the buildings, but the street layout  and open spaces too, all of which combine to contribute to the character of the area.

They are protected by applying greater restrictions on the nationally applied permitted development rights to properties and works that can be done to trees. While government guidance says new development proposals within a conservation area are to be treated favourably where they preserve or make a positive contribution toward the character and appearance of the conservation area.

Properties within many CA’s are subject to extra local restrictions, known as Article 4 Directions, limiting further what changes the owners can make under ‘permitted development rights’ even as far as controlling the appearance of new windows and what colours a property can be painted.

Locally Authorities are required to regularly review their Conservation Areas, this can result in their extension, new Conservation Areas being created and even for areas to be removed where significant change has occurred to the extent that the original justification for inclusion has gone.

What are the restrictions?

Planning authorities may interpret and enforce a CA in different ways so it is recommended that residents living within a CA engage with their planning department to avoid any unwanted difficulties.

Some of the most prominent restrictions relate to alterations that affect the visual originality of an area. These can include; works to a roof, windows, chimney or even guttering; extensions; addition of satellite dishes or solar panels; repainting; tree felling or even tree maintenance.

This page on Ashford Borough Council’s website is very helpful and provides a clear summary of the rules.

It warns that “The demolition of an unlisted building in a Conservation Area without the permission of the local planning authority is a criminal offence.”

So the key is to check first as even removing a wall, fence or tree may require planning permission.

The Conservation Area in Woodchurch

These photos show how little has changed over the past century at The Pavement in Woodchurch. These pretty houses overlook the village green and are just a hundred yards or so from the historic church.

The Past

The Past

The Pavement, Woodchurch. From a postcard postmarked 1st July 1910.

The Current Day

The Current Day

The Pavement, Woodchurch. Photographed on 26th October 2021.

Much of Woodchurch lies within a Conservation Area and we always have a buyers looking for a really special location.

Where are the Conservation Areas in our area?

In Ashford, Tenterden and the surrounding villages, there are 43 designated sites.

A record of these can be found on the Ashford Borough Council’s website here. To use this map, navigate to the parish you are interested in and make sure you have ticked “Conservation Area”.

Many Conservation Areas are in towns. There are seven in Ashford, including pockets of property in Kennington, Willesborough-Lees, the Town Centre and Kingsnorth.

Advantages of buying a property in a Conservation Area.

The most obvious advantage of living in a CA is the reassurance that the charm, character, call it what you will, that you ‘bought into’ when you first fell in love with the house will be protected and the extent of change that is accepted will be more strictly controlled.

This is possibly more applicable in Ashford town than in the surrounding picturesque villages because there are relatively few locations that can boast architecturally significant homes. Owning a home in a CA in town puts you in a relatively exclusive club and will help to maintain its value.

Disadvantages of buying a property in a Conservation Area

If you are looking for a ‘doer-upper’ or have visions of extending and doubling the size of your chosen home, you ought to approach property in a CA with some caution.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to renovate and dramatically extend a home in a CA, but the considerations will be more involved resulting in a few extra hoops to jump through.

This will take additional time and may involve applications to the planning authority. The costs of the works are likely to be more expensive, particularly in terms of the choice of materials that can be used  than for another house around the corner and outside the CA.

Are houses in Conservation Areas more expensive?

If you trust Google, you will be led to believe that homes in a CA command a small premium over others. However, a national average is seldom a reliable indicator where local property values are concerned.

Using Ashford as an example and comparing like for like (as best as possible), I have reviewed the price per square foot achieved for homes in and out of a CA. This shows that properties within a CA are worth between 5 to 10% more than the ‘same’ home outside a CA.

Making the same comparison in the villages and countryside is more difficult as direct comparables are few and far between. However, both Alex Davies and Sarah Holgate agree that properties with a CA are likely to command a premium too although this will vary from house to house.

Would I buy a house in a Conversation Area?

Yes, certainly.

Personally, I’d favour an older property with a little more character and possibly a few ailments too, so I would happily buy in a Conservation Area.

But that is the whole point- it’s a very personal decision. You will have your own preferences as to the style, construction, and location.

So the most important thing to remember is not to be put off by the additional rules associated with owning a property in a Conservation Area but to make sure you fully understand them before making an offer.

We are very lucky at Hobbs Parker as our Planning Consultants are experts in this field and available to help our buyers. If you need help or advice do get in touch.

Useful Links

An assessment of the effects of conservation areas on value  – this detailed research report was written by The London School of Economics on behalf of English Heritage.

Ashford Borough Council’s website is very helpful and provides a clear summary of the rules regarding development in a Conservation Area.

Hobbs Parker’s Planning Consultant’s team has published a dedicated page explaining how they can help with Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas.

Making the most of your property

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