Living in a conservation area could considerably limit the amount of work you can do on your home without getting special permits beforehand. The good news is that the rules are clear and easy to follow. As long as you work within them you’ll be able to have your perfect loft conversion, even in a conservation area.
What is a ‘conservation area’?
England has a long and rich history with a distinct architectural style that makes up a big part of its identity. You can look at almost any picture of a residential street in England and immediately tell which country the picture was taken in. The government aims to preserve this identity and it is for this reason that it introduced ‘conservation areas’ – that is, places with a special historic or architectural interest which are to be protected.
How do I know if I live in a conservation area?
Chances are you already know if you live in a conservation area, but you may not have been made aware when purchasing the property, or perhaps you’re just doing some research on the area you could potentially be moving to. If you’re looking to find out then you’ll be glad to know how easy it is to find out!
You can contact your Local Planning Authority (LPA), which will be happy to provide you with useful details such as when the conservation area was created, why it was created, its boundaries, as well as an overview of the level of legal protection it has in place.
So, how do I get permission to build a loft conversion in a conservation area?
Conservation status will mean that the council intends on preserving the architectural style of your neighbourhood which certain types of loft conversions could disrupt. You’ll need to follow their guidelines to a T in order to have your plans approved and thus it is a good idea to hire an expert who really knows their stuff to handle this side of things.
Although the restrictions will limit your plans and make getting the hip-to-gable loft conversion you once dreamed of impossible, there is still a lot of room to manoeuvre once you find out what you CAN do. Take some time to look around and find out what construction work your neighbours have done. If they were able to get permission then it’s quite likely that you will too!
Generally speaking, some loft conversion styles are considered to be less ‘intrusive’, so if a Velux or Dormer conversion is what you had in mind, you’re in luck! Local Planning Authorities tend to favour these styles as they have less impact on the outward appearance of your property.
What restrictions are currently in place?
Construction regulations in the UK have always been strict and a real pain for anyone looking to have serious construction work done on their home. In 2008, the government took these frustrations on board and decided to considerably relax the laws in place to make Permitted Development less of an obstacle when planning work. Unfortunately, loft conversions within conservation areas are exempt from these relaxations and you must still go through the necessary channels to obtain full permission from your Local Planning Authority.
What you can and can’t do will differ slightly from borough to borough, but the following are some common restrictions you are likely to encounter when planning your loft conversion. You will need to obtain permission if you are looking to:
- Make alterations to your roof (size, shape, materials used etc.)
- Build (or demolish) a chimney, flue or vent on the front elevation of the property
- Install solar panels or roof lights that protrude more than 150mm from the roof slope
There is a possibility that you could be facing even further restrictions which you may not have been aware of. The reason for this is Article 4 Directions, which allow local authorities in certain conservation areas to restrict your permitted development rights. These directions could mean something as simple as installing a door or window will have strict requirements in order to fit in with the rest of the properties in your area. It is therefore vital that you are aware of all the additional rules in place.
Who do I contact for advice?
Because the rules in place can vary wildly from borough to borough and there is no one place where you can obtain all the necessary information, the best thing to do is to contact your Local Planning Authority and find out all the details first-hand. That way you won’t need to fear hearing that your loft conversion cannot be built in a conservation area.
It is also vital that you hire a reliable design and build company to carry out the design and construction of your conversion. Someone with past experience of building loft conversions in conservation areas will know all the ins-and-outs of the rules affecting your area, which will ensure the process goes smoothly, your plans will be accepted and you will avoid any unpleasant surprises.
If you’re looking for such a company, you can give KPD Construction a call! We’re handled many projects with special restrictions in place and can navigate the landscape very well. Our design team will ensure your final plan meets all the criteria planning authorities want to see, while also meeting your personal specifications as much as possible.