As reported in the local press in the early part of January this year, plans to extend a mock Tudor house in the suburbs of Wolverhampton have attracted severe opposition from neighbours affected by the proposals. Those objecting had reason to cheer later on in the month when Wolverhampton City Council, against the recommendation of its planning case officer, refused planning permission for the extension works. The Council members considered that the extension was unacceptably overbearing on the next door property; and further it did not respect the established character of the conservation area.
The fact that the property is located in the conservation area (in this case, the Bantock House Conservation Area) is important. The legal foundations of the protection of conservation areas are found in section 69 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, which says that local authorities “shall … determine which parts of their area are areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance”. Section 72 of the same Act then requires that in the exercise of planning functions, authorities must pay special attention “to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area”.
In policy terms this means that, alongside all the usual policies that any development of this nature would need to address, additional protections must be tackled. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) provides that conservation areas are designated heritage assets. This then requires that an application for development in such an area must consider what harm, if any, will be caused to the asset. The extent of the assessed harm will then lead you, via the NPPF, to what consequence that has for your application. For example, where ‘less than substantial harm’ is in play, then permission can still be granted provided the harm is weighed against the public benefits of the proposal and the balance is favourable.
There are two further key consequences:
- permitted development rights are more restrictive and potentially will have been removed entirely; and
- trees will automatically be protected, rather than protection being limited to only those trees with a TPO (tree protection order). This is easily forgotten.
If you are developing in a conservation area, whether a modest extension or a more substantial development proposal and learning from my own experience of doing just that, then best practice includes: