Why it is so hard to get permission for extensions to houses in Conservation Areas?

How to get planning permission in a conservation area

If an area has special architectural or historic interest and its original character is well-preserved, the council can designate it as a conservation area.

Every council area in England has at least one conservation area and there are now over 10,000 across the country.

Conservation areas are subject to additional planning controls – it is much harder to get planning permission for new developments in conservation areas and though it is a privilege to live in a place recognised for its special qualities, homeowners should be aware of this downside!

The main thing to be aware of is that permitted development rights are restricted in conservation areas. Permitted development rights allow homeowners to extend their properties without needing to apply for full planning permission.

Some permitted development rights, such as Class B roof extensions, do not apply in conservation areas (nor in the less common but equally important Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the Broads, National Parks, and World Heritage Sites). In addition, councils have the right to suspend other PD rights if they feel that the extensions permitted by those rights would cause particular harm. They do this through the introduction of an Article 4 Direction.

In many conservation areas, relatively minor developments like the erection of satellite dishes, the replacement of windows, and the repainting of exterior render need planning permission.

If you do need planning permission, councils will take a much stricter approach to your application. This is because Section 72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 requires that, when considering any planning application that affects a conservation area, local planning authorities must pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area. 

Most conservation areas have character appraisals, documents produced by the council that explain why the conservation area has been designated and what special protections it has. The document should explain what the council will allow in that area. The council may also have supplementary planning guidance with advice on what might be possible in the conservation area.

If you need specialist advice on how you might be able to extend your home in a conservation area, check out Martin Gaine’s book, How to Get Planning Permission, or use the Ask Martin service.

If you have been refused planning permission, consider submitted a planning appeal. Just Planning has an affordable planning appeal service intended especially for homeowners and extensions, and has had some recent successes in conservation areas (see here and here, for example).