Conservation areas are locally defined protected spaces. They usually have a particular architectural or historic significance that the local government - and community - are keen to protect. It doesn't just have to be the houses that are special though. Conservation areas can also be put in place to protect: the layout of roads, green spaces & trees, or the historic character of a particular neighbourhood.
If a building is in a conservation area, the owner will face a variety of restrictions on how they can change or develop it. Because decisions on which areas are protected are made at local level, the restrictions that come with each conservation area vary from place to place.
Generally rules called 'Article 4 Directions' mean homeowners living in conservation areas can't make 'permitted development right' changes. These are things which you can normally do without planning permission, like: installing double-glazing, or adding a small porch. Demolishing buildings, and chopping down trees are also usually prohibited.
In conservation areas, some changes are still allowed, but you'll have to apply for consent or planning permission before you start work. The best way to find out the exact rules affecting your property is to get in touch with the relevant planning authority.
The easiest way to check whether your home (or any other property) is in a conservation area is to look on the local council website. Most will have a map or search tool that will allow you to see whether your home falls into a conservation area. If that feature isn't on their website, you can find out by calling or emailing them directly.
You can find out which local authority you're in here.
Many good, local estate agents, will also know where the conservation areas are in a certain neighbourhood.
It's unclear whether being in a conservation area impacts the value of a property.
According to Savills three-quarters of estate agents consider that being in a well-maintained conservation area will add value to your house.
And, in 2012, research by the London School of Economics (LSE) and Historic England found that properties in conservation areas sold for a 9% premium, and saw a higher rate of annual value growth.
However, more recent research - also by the LSE - looked at over a million property transactions from Nationwide Building Society and found 'no immediate effect on property prices'.
One thing this study noted was that many conservation areas are home to larger than average numbers of affluent residents. This can have a positive affect on house prices. Affluent residents often attract the best schools and amenities, which in turn makes the area more attractive and higher value.
The best way to ensure you're going to get the highest price possible for your home is to enlist the help of an estate agent with the right expertise. They'll know exactly how to market your property to attract the right buyers - and will be able to talk up all of the points that make your home special.
Being in a conservation area can have both a positive and a negative impact on your home sale.
On the one hand conservation areas tend to be beautiful, architecturally interesting, and provide a buyer with the reassurance of neighbourhood stability. No big developments are likely to interrupt views, or disturb your sleep.
On the other hand, some buyers may be off put by how difficult it is to adapt the property, if their needs change. For example, they want to extend the house for more space, or make their home more energy efficient.
One way to prevent buyers being turned off by potential red tape, is to do any repairs and necessary maintenance before you go on the market. If your property is in good condition, considerations about permissions and paperwork will be less prominent in the minds of potential buyers.
Another way to ease the mind of worried buyers is to encourage them to look at your local authority website for more information. In many cases, buyers will be imagining the worst. Understanding more about the reality of living in the conservation area can make all the difference.
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