Conservation areas

Areas such as Woodbridge are designated as conservation areas. This means there are additional planning controls which need to be observed if one wishes to make external alterations to a property. The local authority will pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of the conservation area.

A recent case shows the potential consequences of failing to observe these rules. In the case of Hargrave House Ltd and Chaim Reiner  v Highbury Corner Magistrates Court and another, a company and its managing director purchased a terraced residential property in the St John’s Grove conservation area in North London, intending to renovate it and resell.

As part of the renovation works, render was applied to the exterior of the building and subsequently painted. Planning permission was not sought for this procedure.

Shortly after the work was completed the developer made an application for retrospective planning permission. This was refused on the basis that ‘proposed’ works would have a detrimental impact on the visual appearance of the building and cause unacceptable harm to the character and appearance of the conservation area. An appeal against this refusal was itself refused.

The local authority then issued an enforcement notice which required the developer to remove the concrete render from all elevations of the premises and repair any damage to the facing fabric of the building caused  by taking that step with materials to match existing.

The developer’s own expert witness noted that “the application of the bright white paint to render is extremely regrettable on the front elevation” and it was agreed at the trial that the only suitable way to make good would be to require the removal of the render, demolish the walls  and rebuild in new/second-hand bricks.

There is a defence available to an enforcement notice which provides that the notice can be treated as complied with if the developer had done everything he could be expected to do to secure compliance. In this case, the notice required “repair” and the developer argued what was required (i.e. demolition and rebuilding) went beyond repair and as such they had done everything that they could reasonably be expected to do to secure compliance.

The court gave short shrift to the developer’s arguments and had no hesitation in dismissing the claim: the enforcement notice was valid and had to be complied with.

This article first appeared in the East Anglian Daily Times, 4th April 2018.

Luke Cain is a solicitor in the Property department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Suffolk.

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