How to Replace Windows in a Conservation Area or Listed Building

There are approximately 10,000 conservation areas in England alone (at least one in every local authority). There are also many listed buildings, which may or may not be in a conservation area.

Conservation areas and listed buildings are protected by strict planning controls. If you live in one of these locations, you’re legally obliged to maintain your house in a particular way, as determined by the local authority.

House in a Conservation Area by a river

What Is a Conservation Area?

This is an area of historic or architectural importance (or both). It can be a street, a suburb, a town centre or a rural area. Regulations in these locations apply to existing buildings and the construction of new ones. This is to preserve the character and uniqueness of the area.

Conservation regulations apply to a building’s external appearance, so windows, doors, brickwork, chimneys and roofs must all be in keeping with the style of the neighbourhood. The finer points vary from place to place so you must check before starting any work. Generally speaking, you’ll need permission to update or replace anything external.

New Windows in a Conservation Area

You’ll need to replace your windows now and again to keep your home comfy and secure. Despite the regulations, this is perfectly possible. The general rule is to reproduce the existing window or door as closely as possible. This may mean you can’t replace single-pane windows with double glazing. However, adding an additional pane fitted internally won’t affect the external appearance and will still be much warmer and more secure than the old single pane.

The two panes required for double glazing mean a bigger frame is necessary, and this will be obvious from the outside. Your local authority may find this unacceptable.

How Is a Listed Building Different?

A listed building also has a unique heritage, and it can be located with similar buildings, or it may be one of a kind. These buildings must also retain their original character but the regulations for listed buildings are even more extensive. They also apply to the interior, and it can be the case that original materials must be used for repairs inside and out.

Each property will have its particular regulations. You may only be allowed to repair an existing window rather than replace it. However, if the window and frame are too decrepit to repair your local authority might grant permission for a brand-new one. You’ll still need to follow the original style, so a sash window must be replaced by an identical sash window. This won’t be as energy efficient as double glazing, but a new window is still better than an old one.

Always Check and Never Assume

By law, you must obtain planning permission for new windows and doors in conservation areas and listed buildings, but this doesn’t mean the planning authority will say no. For example, they may feel that new double-glazing looks fine in a conservation area, as it doesn’t detract from the overall ambience. 

You won’t get permission to dramatically modernise a listed building, but no one wants it to fall down either. The council may well let you make improvements so long as they’re done in the right way. Each case is different so always get guidance and permission from the right authorities.   

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