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Replacing windows in conservation areas (what you need to be aware of)

March 14, 2024

Conservation areas are designated locations recognised for their special architectural, historical or cultural significance.

They are typically subject to strict regulations aimed at protecting and preserving their character and heritage. 

And it is for this reason that installers need to tread carefully when replacing windows in properties found there.

Failure to adhere to conservation guidelines can result in fines and legal wranglings as well as damage to an area’s heritage value.

 

5 core aspects of conservation area window replacement to be aware of

 

1. Historical authenticity

Window replacements in conservation areas must align with the original architectural style and materials in order to remain in-keeping with the character of the local area. From a purely historical perspective, maintaining the cultural identity of a property or location is vital for preserving a connection to the past.

 

2. Planning permission

To protect the distinctive nature of an area, adjustments made within the locality tend to be subject to tougher planning rules. Typically, obtaining planning permission is mandatory for window replacements to ensure compliance with preservation guidelines. The property owner will need to contact the Local Planning Authority, who will advise them on what types of windows are permitted,  and whether or not a planning application will need to be submitted.

 

3. Design and material consideration

In most cases, regulations often specify approved materials and design guidelines that must be followed, which can prove restrictive. In the past, traditional materials such as timber would have been preferred over modern alternatives like PVCU. However, as long as their appearance is not considerably different from the original design, PVCU windows are now very much a viable alternative. One of the main reasons, outside of aesthetic appearance, PVCU windows are now an increasingly popular option in properties within conservation areas is their excellent energy efficiency.

 

4. Security and locks

PVCU windows are highly durable, resistant to impact, and come with a variety of different multi-point locking systems. You can have locks on windows in conservation areas, but it’s important to ensure that the ones installed are sympathetic to the historic character and architectural integrity of the building.

 

5. Listed buildings

Replacing original windows in listed buildings is dependent upon consent from the local council and relevant heritage authorities. The process is highly regulated with even more emphasis placed on the historical accuracy of the replacement windows.

 

Are rules around conservation areas changing?

Replacing windows in a conservation area can be a complicated process due to stringent planning laws and a requirement to retain original architectural character. Given the complex nature, it’s not uncommon for rules around conservation areas to be updated. 

For the latest advice or guidance, we would recommend keeping tabs on the www.historicengland.org.uk website. For more localised information, check the website of the local planning authority you’re working in as LPAs often publish planning policy documents and updates online.

 

Whose responsibility is it to check planning regulations in a conservation area?

While it is ultimately the homeowner’s responsibility to seek the appropriate advice, or obtain the relevant permissions, when relating to window installation in a conservation area, as a trusted installer, having expertise and knowledge in all areas of the planning process is essential for ensuring compliance with regulations while delivering high-quality installations.

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