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Knowing what is right

If you are fortunate enough to live in a listed building you must comply with English Heritage (EH) recommendations when making modifications to your home. EH “preserve” important structural elements from destruction, on behalf of the country, for future generations to come.

Local conservation officers, however, often apply the same draconian rules to unlisted properties that happen to be a in a conservation area. Authorities have a duty to “conserve” the general appearance in these areas, but they should be far less stringent.

If you live in a conservation area, you must decide if your property’s windows are sufficiently important to adhere to EH listed buildings advice or if suitable alternatives could fulfil your requirements better. Their website states:

“Sash windows are a precious part of our built heritage that makes the places we work and live special and most people find them attractive. But keeping them is not just a matter of taste. It also makes economic and ecological sense. Original timber windows were made of very high-quality wood seldom found nowadays, so it is a waste to replace them unnecessarily.

Plastic windows consume a lot of energy in their production and most are only expected to last for around 20 years. When broken, most go to landfills. Besides, sash windows are a unique feature of your property. It gives it character and special appeal. 82% of estate agents we surveyed this year felt that original features such as sash windows tend to add financial value to properties and 78% believed they helped a property to sell more quickly.”

Old vs New

We agree that sash windows are an important part of older buildings and should be repaired if economically viable. It is true that thick curtains, shutters and secondary glazing will positively affect the heat loss from your building; you cannot get wood of the same quality as 100 years ago, and estate agents feel sash windows add value and help sell properties quicker.

We also agree that cheap plastic casement windows installed since the early ‘80s have blighted so many homes in the UK, and negatively impacted the value and character of these older properties.

However many of these benefits are equally relevant when new windows are fitted. Shutters, thick curtains or secondary glazing, still deliver the same savings when fitted behind new sash windows. The main difference is that new A rated windows are energy positive, avoiding the draughts that older windows can create.

Additionally, new sash windows don’t require secondary glazing and still bring energy savings.

Contesting Decisions

Our ‘Further Information’ section below will answer many of your concerns, however many people living in Conservation Areas are unaware you are within your rights to ignore planners’ advice in certain situations.

The act has been drawn up for “rented properties, those with commercial use, multi occupancy or flats”. So if you live in a house you own without any business or commercial considerations, then planners cannot prevent you from installing the windows of your choice. In the right circumstances you can ignore their advice as it is simply a question of their preference and yours may differ from theirs.

Many of our clients have simply wanted to install energy efficient sash windows for added warmth and to eliminate the need for painting. They have successfully challenged decisions they have considered unfair, allowing them to fit windows of their choice, in conservation areas.

“It appears to replicate a traditional sliding sash window very closely. The effect is so convincing that it is difficult to differentiate between the two, even at close quarters.”

Perfect Replication

Even the most critical eye will struggle to tell the difference between a Bygone Collection sash window and an original.

An inspector from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, deciding against Macclesfield council, said of a Bygone design: “It appears to replicate a traditional sliding sash window very closely. The effect is so convincing that it is difficult to differentiate between the two, even at close quarters.”

He added: “Unlike many other PVCu imitations which only pay superficial attention to traditional detailing, the mouldings on the frame of the unit, which also extend to the central glazing bars, appear most authentic.”

He concluded that the Bygone windows would actually “preserve or enhance the conservation area”.

A senior planner building his own home, using reclaimed materials he’d collected over 40 years, wanted a plastic framed window requiring no maintenance or painting. When he looked closely at a sample Bygone window he exclaimed: “I don’t want timber – I want a PVCu sash window.” The product he was looking at was PVCu, but he thought it was wood.

Find your Local

Our MASTER INSTALLERS are a team of specially trained craftsmen, selected by us, to deliver a quality installation of your chosen Masterframe windows.

In Good Company

Opt for a Masterframe sash window and you’ll be following in the tradition of some great British landmarks. You’ll find our designs in conservation areas across the country, national parks, a World Heritage site and numerous buildings with an Article 4 directions. After being granted consent, we’ve even installed our styles in some Grade Two listed buildings.

Conservation areas and heritage properties

If you are lucky enough to live in a heritage property, a Conservation Area or are responsible for a special building like Royal Troon, we can probably help you. Download our Conservation Guide today and find out more.


Further Information

The local planning authority may remove certain permitted development rights by issuing a direction to restrict permitted development under Article 4 of the General Development Order. You will then have to submit a planning application for work that normally would not require one.

Article 4 directions are made when the character of an area, of acknowledged importance, could be threatened by insensitive development that might be carried out under permitted development rights. They are most common in Conservation Areas where the local planning authority finds it justified to impose additional controls to protect and enhance the important historic character of the area.

The nature of the restrictions will be set out in the Article 4 direction and the justification should be explained in policies and proposals that apply in the specific Conservation Area. You will probably know if your property is affected by such a direction, but you can check with the local planning authority if you are not sure.

These are areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.

There are over 8,000 Conservation Areas in England: these will differ in size, scale and character. They may include a whole town centre, squares, terraces or small groups of buildings around a public space. They are often centred on Listed Buildings but this is not a requirement. The prime reason for identifying a Conservation Area is the quality and interest of areas rather than inpidual buildings.

Conservation Areas are one of the designated areas where some permitted development rights are restricted, including the right to carry out demolition work or to alter many of the buildings and structures in a Conservation Area.

The local planning authority is under a ‘statutory duty’ to manage development in Conservation Areas to ensure it ‘protects’ and ‘enhances’ the character or appearance of the area. It is required to identify what is desirable to preserve the area and how this will be achieved. This should be set out in a Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan – available on your council’s website.

The local planning authority may restrict permitted development rights to achieve these aims through the declaration of an Article 4 direction.

Under current legislation, conservation area consent is required before ‘demolition’ work is carried out in conservation areas. What constitutes demolition for these purposes has been decided by the courts in a case known as ‘Shimizu’.

Remove of architectural details or making holes in walls to create new windows would not require conservation area consent, although planning permission may be required. The Government plans simplify this process by replacing conservation area consent with an equivalent requirement.

The General Development Order identifies ‘designated areas’ where permitted development rights are more restricted. These are: Conservation Areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Broads and World Heritage Sites. If you live in one of these you will need to apply for planning permission for certain types of work which do not need an application in other areas.

Development is defined under the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act as, “the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operation in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any building or other land.” Most forms of development require planning permission (see also “permitted development”).

Your local planning authority can serve an enforcement notice on you when they consider you have broken planning control rules because your actions are harmful to your neighbourhood.

The decisive issue for the local planning authority should be whether the breach unacceptably affects public amenity or the existing use of land and buildings meriting protection in the public interest. They may take this view if the building is a protected Listed Building or is in a protected area such as a Conservation Area.

It is illegal to disobey an enforcement notice unless it is successfully appealed against. You can make an appeal against both refusal of permission and an enforcement notice but if the verdict comes out against you and you still refuse to comply you may be prosecuted.

In order to ‘cut red tape’ local planning authorities have been empowered to make Local Development Orders that mean planning permission is not needed for other smaller specified works that fall outside of the general permitted development rights. Typically these allow the replacement of windows and doors in flats without further planning permission, provided certain important conditions are met.

So far not many of these Orders have been issued and it is very unlikely they will ever apply in conservation areas or to listed buildings, or to the making of new window openings. You or your Installer will need to check with your local planning authority.

A building of special architectural or historic interest; Listed buildings are graded I, II* or II with grade I being the highest. Listing includes the interior as well as the exterior of the building, and any buildings or permanent structures (e.g. wells within its curtilage).

English Heritage is responsible for designating buildings for listing in England.

In addition to planning permission requirements, Listed Building Consent is required for the demolition, in whole or in part of a Listed Building, or for any works of alteration or extension that would affect the character of a Listed Building.

A building as it existed on 1 July 1948 or, if constructed after 1 July 1948, as it was built originally.

Permission to carry out certain limited forms of development without the need to make an application to a local planning authority, as granted under the terms of the General Development Order *(1).

These are called ‘permitted development rights’ and are usefully described in an interactive guide available from the official ‘Planning Portal’ website:

Permitted development rights that apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes or other buildings and are further restricted in ‘designated areas’ such as Conservation Areas.

The General Development Order sets out classes of development for which a grant of planning permission is automatically given, provided that no restrictive conditions are attached or that the development is exempt from the permitted development rights by the terms of its planning permission.

Part 1 deals with the rules concerning what extensions, improvements and alterations a householder may make to their ‘dwelling house’ and the ‘curtilage’ area around it without need for an application for planning permission. Class A covers the enlargement, improvement or alterations to a house including new windows and doors. These rights are subject to certain conditions A.3.

(*1) The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended)

Also see Local Development Order

You can appeal against the local planning authority’s decision to refuse your planning application or their decision to take enforcement action against you. Your case will be considered by an independent and qualified Planning Inspector. Full details are available at the websites of the ‘Planning Portal’ or ‘Planning Inspectorate’.

Bygone Installers have won many planning appeals made to the Planning Inspectorate for clients where the local authority had failed to recognise the qualities of the proposed replacement windows. Bygone Installers have access to our own specialist independent planning advisor to provide expert help where this is needed.

The failure to obtain planning permission or comply with the details of a planning permission is commonly known as a ‘planning breach’.

A planning breach usually occurs when:

  • A development that requires planning permission is undertaken without the permission being granted – either because the planning application was refused or was never applied for
  • A development that has been given permission subject to conditions breaks one or more of those conditions.

  • A planning breach in itself is not illegal and the council will often permit a retrospective application where planning permission has not been sought. However, if the breach involves a previously rejected development (or the retrospective application fails) the council can issue an enforcement notice requiring you to remedy the situation or put things back as they were. In the case of historic building this can be a particularly difficult and expensive problem to resolve.

Parliament has given the main responsibility for planning to local planning authorities (usually, this is the planning department of your local council). They consider whether planning proposals comply with both the Local Plan and national planning policies such as the National Planning Policy Framework. Therefore, every local planning authority has different policies that respond to local circumstances but all follow the same general approach.

The local planning authority may grant planning permission (probably subject to certain conditions) or refuse permission. If they refuse you have the right to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate for a second opinion.

If there are queries about a particular case, the first thing to do is to contact your local planning authority