Works in a Conservation Area

This page covers what consent might be needed for works in a conservation area.

Conservation area consent

Conservation area consent was abolished by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act (ref. 1) and replaced with a requirement for planning permission for demolition of a building in a conservation area (ref. 1). The circumstances in which such planning permission is required and the consequences of failing to apply for it when it is needed are the same as previously applied under conservation area consent.

A non-listed building in a conservation area is not to be demolished without the consent of the local planning authority (ref. 2). Listed building consent will be required to demolish a listed building, as explained on our Listed Building Consent page

It is a criminal offence to fail to obtain such consent in the form of planning permission, however, a defence is available where the demolition was urgently necessary in the interests of health and safety, provided certain conditions are met (ref. 3). Liability for the offence can attach to either (or both) the person carrying out the works and/or the person authorising the works to be carried out. Not knowing that the building is in a conservation area is not a defence to criminal proceedings.

Planning permission and demolition

In some cases there will be uncertainty as to whether the works in question are truly a ‘demolition’ or whether they are more accurately an alteration. This problem has been considered in the courts and will also require consideration of what a ‘building’ is in the relevant legislation (ref. 4). Bespoke advice is likely to be needed in individual cases as this matter is highly fact-specific, however, the general position is that the removal of part of a building, such as a boundary wall, could be found to be a demolition (requiring planning permission) even if a good deal of the structure remains in place. In reaching a view on the question of demolition versus alteration, the courts have suggested that the focus should be on the structure removed, not the part of the structure which remains.

Removal of architectural details, making holes in walls to create new windows, or demolishing one wall to allow an extension would not amount to demolition and so would not require permission for demolition. Planning permission generally may still be required for such works, though.

Local planning authorities are able to advise on the need for planning permission for relevant demolition in a conservation area.


(1) Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013

(2) Paragraph B1, Class B, Part 11, Schedule 2 Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015

(3) s196D(1) Town and Country Planning Act 1990

(4) Shimizu (UK) Ltd v Westminster City Council [1996] 3 P.L.R.89; Barton v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2017] EHWC 573 (Admin)