Is your property in a conservation area? Here’s what you need to know

Permitted Development Rights are restricted in areas such as Albert Street, St Albans

Permitted Development Rights are restricted in areas such as Albert Street, St Albans - Credit: Archant

Conservation areas exist to protect the special architectural and historic interest of a place. But what exactly is a conservation area, and what does it mean to own a property in one? Planning consultant Andrew Boothby, from Aitchison Raffety, explains

Andrew Boothby, Aitchison Raffety

Andrew Boothby, Aitchison Raffety - Credit: Archant

The first conservation areas were designated in 1967 under the Civic Amenities Act. There are now nearly 10,000 in England.

In order to be designated, an area has to be identified as having a definite architectural quality or historic interest. This could be the form and features of the buildings, or their former uses and historical development.

Under planning legislation the Local Planning Authority has a duty to ‘pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area’.

This is mainly carried out through the planning application process, the need for high quality design, and managed change.

From a conservation persepctive, Fishpool Street is one of St Albans' most protected streets

From a conservation persepctive, Fishpool Street is one of St Albans' most protected streets - Credit: Archant

Conservation areas are normally designated by the Local Planning Authority; however, Historic England (formerly English Heritage) and the Secretary of State also have the power to do so.

There are currently 19 Conservation Areas within St Albans District, a list of which can be found on the Local Planning Authority’s website.

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To help understand the specific importance and value of each area the Local Planning Authority has produced a series of Conservation Area Character Statements.

These explain the specific character of each conservation area, including its historical and archaeological background, its appearance, buildings of special importance (Listed and Locally Listed buildings), and proposals for its enhancement.

The Character Statements can also be viewed on the Local Planning Authority’s website, and can be purchased as hard copies. These Statements are very useful to anyone proposing development works in these areas.

Set out below are some key tips and advice for residential and commercial property owners within conservation areas.

The need to enhance or preserve

Any development within a conservation area must either enhance the existing building and its setting, or preserve it. It is therefore important that any new development is of a high standard of design, sympathetic to its surroundings and the conservation area as a whole.

Extensions should normally be designed to leave the original building pre-dominant and the form of the original roof should either be extended or repeated. Proposals should also take into account window to wall ratios, existing building lines and features and relief. Furthermore, materials should be of good quality, normally traditional and natural, with acceptable long-term weathering characteristics and compatible with those in the vicinity. Opportunities for enhancement include the retention and re-introduction of traditional materials and techniques of repair.


Within a conservation area, you need planning permission for:

• The total or substantial demolition of an unlisted building with a cubic content of more than 115 cubic metres (measured externally).

• Demolition of a gate, wall, fence or other means of enclosure, which is higher than one metre abutting a highway, or higher than two metres otherwise.

It is an offence to carry out such demolition without planning permission.

Tighter controls over Permitted Development

Permitted Development Rights are more restricted in conservation areas, therefore certain types of work, which would be Permitted Development in other areas, require planning permission.

For residential dwellings the following works cannot be carried out under Permitted Development (the list below is not exhaustive):

• Any extensions or outbuildings to the side of a house

• Extensions at the back of a house with more than one storey

• Additions, alterations or extensions to roofs

• Cladding any part of the house with stone, render, timber, tiles or another material

• The installation of chimneys, flues or vents on the main (front) elevation of a house, or on a side elevation fronting a highway

• Installation of roof lights or solar panels that would protrude more than 150mm from the roof slope

• The installation of solar panels on a wall which fronts a highway

Nevertheless, before undertaking any work under Permitted Development, whether in a conservation area or not, it is strongly recommended that you apply to the Local Planning Authority for a Certificate of Lawfulness (proposed) to formally agree that the work is Permitted Development.

Article 4 Directions

An Article 4 Direction allows Local Planning Authorities to restrict Permitted Development Rights in certain areas. These Directions can control small-scale change that might gradually erode the character of a conservation area, such as alterations to windows and doors. Where an Article 4 Direction applies, planning permission is required for the specified works.

The two largest Article 4 Directions in St Albans are the area around Verulam Road and Fishpool Street, and the area around Sopwell Lane and Albert Street. Details of these and the other Article 4 Directions within St Albans District can be found on the Local Planning Authority’s website.


Most trees in conservation areas are protected if they are over 75mm in diameter, measured 1.5 metres above ground level. Therefore, if you want to cut down, top or lop any trees in a conservation area you must notify your Local Planning Authority six weeks before work begins.

The Local Authority will then consider the contribution the tree makes to the character of the area and if necessary create a Tree Preservation Order to protect the tree.

Before embarking on any project within a conservation area, Aitchison Raffety would be keen to provide initial informal advice, so please do not hesitate to contact Andrew Boothby on 01442 291798 or via email at