Somewhat unsurprisingly, research conducted by the London School of Economics has shown that properties in conservation areas are amongst some of the most attractive, characterful, and desirable homes in the country.
Designated by local councils to preserve towns and villages of significant architectural and historical interest and areas of outstanding natural beauty, properties often benefit from idyllic settings, period features, and stunning views.
And we in the West Country are extremely lucky to have hundreds on our doorstop, in fact the borough with the highest total of designated conservation areas in England is located right here in the West. The Cotswold district in Gloucestershire has a total of 144!
While most homeowners would agree that living in a conservation area is a blessing, there is one particular drawback and that is the often thorny issue of planning consent. Whether you are looking to upgrade your living space, replace sash windows, cut down trees or simply put up a garden shed, it’s enough to induce nightmares. But should homeowners really be so worried?
When it comes to loft conversions at least, the planning process is not that much different from that which applies to non-designated areas. Although alterations to the roof and the installation of a dormer are less likely to be permitted by planners, if property owners seek out advice from a specialist loft conversion provider with an in-house architect, they will be able to get the best out of their existing roof space while remaining compliant with building regulations and local design guides.
Importantly, specialists can help take the stress out of the initial stages of the conversion process by dealing directly with planning officers to make sure that your property upgrade runs smoothly from design to completion.
Undoubtedly, one of the greatest sources of frustration for homeowners looking to make alterations to their property is the local planning office – as a recent BBC documentary that aired in 2012 arguably demonstrated.
Featuring planners in Cheltenham, viewers of the documentary saw a number of made for TV battles between homeowners and officers. A particularly memorable moment came when a resident complained about the height of his neighbours wooden fence. Having conducted a thorough investigation into local regulations and had a number of face-to-face meetings with the resident, the challenge was quickly thrown out by the officer, showing that planners are human after all!
Apart from the entertainment value, what the program showed is that planners share the same goals that homeowners do and are often sympathetic to their aims. Passionate about ensuring that the local area remains special, they want properties to remain faithful to their original design and to maintain market prices while balancing a need for increased housing stock.
Considering these factors then, loft conversions are the perfect solution when it comes to creating space and adding value to your home. In comparison to extensions for example, there can be very few outward signs that a loft conversion has taken place and because they don’t spoil or take up land which could potentially be used for housing, planners are often inclined to view them favourably.
Another thing to consider is the extent to which the conversion plans remain faithful to the original design of the building. This operates as much from a planning perspective as it does an aesthetic one, because spaces which feel like a natural addition to your home are much more likely to be used and much more likely to attract potential buyers in the future!
Overall then, my advice when it comes to loft conversions in conservation areas is that local is best. It is important for your provider to know their Bath stone from their Cotswold, their Georgian features from their Victorian, and to have a grasp of local rules and regulations in order to be able to create new space which suits your lifestyle and your home.