conservation areas dormer extension

Conservation areas – a building mission impossible?

August 17, 2021

Substantial history and undeniable character of conservation areas across the UK provides charm, challenges and opportunities. These areas remain protected since additional development controls have been put in place in the 1960s. Those wishing to refurbish or make changes to properties within conservation areas can easily run into difficulties during the planning permission process, but these can easily be overcome with the right professional support and project management skills.

So, where does it leave you if you’re moving to or living in a conservation area and would like to add more space and value to your home, say for example by building a loft conversion?

What are my loft conversion prospects within a conservation area?

It’s a common misconception that conservation areas need to remain completely untouched by development as the conversion of lofts may in fact be possible. There are certain unique circumstances however which may prevent conversions under development rules such as listed building status, whether the property is located in an area of ‘Outstanding Natural Beauty’ or on a World Heritage site, or an environment that is deemed ‘designated land’.

In any case, planning permission will be essential and designated regulations would apply to your loft build. That doesn’t mean your loft turns into a mission impossible but the proposed design concepts will need to consider surroundings and comply with specialist requirements.

Key aspects to consider…

Everything has to be designed in keeping with the rest of your home and the surrounding area as a whole, which means you’ll need to work with specialists who have sufficient expertise to get your project over the finish line. Any works need to take into account:

  • The impact on your community and neighbours, including noise, traffic and the appearance of your finished conversion;
  • The privacy of those around you needs to be maintained, ensuring they’re not overlooked;
  • Right to light: works that involve building a higher structure mustn’t infringe your neighbours’ rights to natural light;
  • Nature conservation: before you commence with any building work it’s advisable to speak to your local authority to find out what their parameters for conversions are. This may well involve drawing up designs to ensure you’re working within their regulations. If your home is listed, you’ll also need to apply for listed building consent;
  • New regulations have recently come into force requiring fire safety plans to be prepared and submitted for certain types of planning permission.

This list is not exhaustive but gives you a good idea of what’s involved in the process and illustrates why it’s important to have specialists like Cube to help you navigate the unwieldy process.

What design ideas work well for a loft conversion in a conservation area?

Given everything needs to be in-keeping with the surrounding area of the property, simple loft builds such as skylight conversions are considered more favourable and most likely to be approved. These styles create no extension to the existing structure, keeping the existing appearance intact and views unobstructed.

Alternative designs, such as gable or dormer conversions and roof terracing almost certainly require planning permission as they significantly change the appearance of the roofline. Failure to attain this permission can result in a substantial fine or, in extreme cases, prosecution and even imprisonment. However, Cube has applied for and successfully achieved consent for clever designs in the past, and added substantial space as a result.


Whether it’s an extension or a loft conversion, make sure it’s done properly and professionally to achieve a quality result that stands the test of time and adds value to your property.

Key to any works is that it’s designed in way that looks as if it has always been there. In order to achieve this, we highly recommend that you employ a specialist to deliver your project. This applies for internal and external works such as roofing. A specialist in roof builds can advise not only what’ll work best for your property and its surroundings but also how to appease the planners who’ll have the final say on your planning application and permission.

Why you should talk to Cube about your conservation project…

Cube has a team of experts in this field and can offer you the complete solution from design through to final sign off, making sure your finished project meets the requirements of your original brief. We pride ourselves on attention to detail, personal service, innovative ideas and competitive prices. With many years of industry experience we’re well placed to advise you on all aspects of planning permission and building regulations in conservation areas.

Let us take the complexities of building works within conservation areas out of your hands.

Contact us to discuss your project in more detail.