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Replacing windows in Conservation Areas, Listed Buildings and period properties

Mark Pearce, Managing Director KJM Group explains the pitfalls of window replacement in Conservation Areas, and options to avoid them.

We live in a beautiful county. Hampshire has more than 13,000 listed buildings and 300 conservation areas. It’s history, natural beauty and historic buildings make it a great place to live – but not always the easiest place to replace windows and doors.

Energy efficient windows and doors will make your home warmer and more secure. They can help you cut the cost of heating your home compared to single glazed windows by more than £160 each year and they’re also really important in cutting carbon emissions.

These are clearly ‘good’ things. The paradox or the challenge is that new windows don’t always sit comfortably in their surroundings when fitted to period properties. Anyone who has watched the BBCs comedy series White Gold, will probably have developed ‘an impression’ of the window industry. 

While a comedy, it makes a serious point. The PVC-U window industry in its early days was pretty crass and brash. The preservation of the historic character of buildings wasn’t a priority for many window companies and there were some pretty awful installations.

Although creating complexities, I would argue that Conservation Areas and Listed Building Status have and continue to be hugely important in safeguarding our heritage.

Conversely, there is still in my view a level of resistance within planning authorities to the use of some materials and that this is often founded on an outdated concept of material performance.

There are for example, lots of unsympathetic mass produced timber window installations out there which were manufactured from poor quality softwoods and detract significantly from those properties where they were installed, offering little in thermal efficiency or performance.

A new generation of PVC-U windows by contrast offers slim sightlines, a strong and traditional aesthetic including flush casements and mechanical jointing, for example Residence 9 or Style-Line from Deceuninck or Beaumont window from Dempsey Dyer, which are by comparison, far more sympathetic.

We also offer a wide range of high-performance timber windows including Sapele hardwood, Oak and Accoya. This includes the Demsey Stormproof window, plus traditional timber pulley and weights, vertical sliding sash windows.

The point is the installation has to be right for the property.  It’s not that one product or material type is necessarily wrong by default. In my view planners can be a little to arbitrary in their rulings.

So, what is a Conservation Area and how do you know if you’re in one?

If your property is in a conservation area it should also have been picked up by your solicitor at the point at which you purchased your home. If in any doubt, you should contact your local planning authority.

Like Listed Building Status, Conservation Areas are there to safeguard the character of our built and natural environments. The major difference between the two is that Listed Buildings sit on a national register usually compiled on the advice of Historic England (formerly English Heritage).

Conservation Areas are designated under Article 4 of planning law by local planning authorities as ‘areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’.

If you’re in the former there are stringent controls on any alteration of your property. Controls in Conservation Areas are administered locally and may vary slightly between different areas, although still place restrictions on significant changes to the appearance of your property, which may have to go through a consultation process before works are undertaken.

The only way you can be confident about benchmarking this is to speak to your local planning authority.

This Listed Building guide from Hampshire County Council is a good starting point with useful contacts.

What impact will a Conservation Area have on my purchase of replacement windows and doors?

The level of enthusiasm with which a local authority applies controls in conservation areas will ultimately be decided locally but there are general factors which may increase the likelihood of success or otherwise of your application.

Unlike Listed Building consent, where we repair work or like-for-like replacement is usually seen as preferable Article 4 of allows for the use of modern materials, where those products have been specifically designed to replicate original designs.

Residence 9 is a good example as although an energy efficient PVC-U window, it’s dimensions, detailing and opening mechanisms have been designed to replicate a 19th Century Window.

Can I fit new windows and doors to a Listed Building?

As stated, as a general rule if you’re fortunate enough to own a Listed Building, it’s very unlikely that you will be granted permission for wholesale replacement of windows and doors.

Repair is definitely seen as being preferable, with permission generally only granted for replacement if it’s not a possibility and then only for like-for-like replacement.

This can make energy efficiency in older properties more difficult to achieve – but not impossible. Historic England argues that the thermal efficiency of a single-glazed traditional timber window can be improved by up to 60%, by incorporating secondary glazing.

This can be a good option. While you’ll still need Listed Building Consent, secondary glazing can be a great way of increasing thermal performance and increasing sound proofing. (See our blog on secondary glazing)

Closing thoughts

We can work with homeowners to develop a solution to improve the security and energy efficiency of their homes. Listed Building status and Conservation Areas, rightly place controls on developments to safeguard properties and the appearance of our towns, villages and countryside for future generations.

Sympathetic replacement of windows or secondary glazing can do this, while also supporting wider targets to increase the energy efficiency of our homes.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch to find out more by calling 01264 359355 or emailing email sales@kjmgroup.co.uk