Navigating the requirements of conservation areas or special areas such as the Dulwich Estate can be daunting. Here are a few tips for making it easier…
Conservation areas are beautiful and as a result very popular places to live. We enjoy working in historical contexts, updating buildings while being respectful to the surrounding streetscape. Ini order to achieve this these projects do require another level of care and consideration.
Having the privilege of being based in the Dulwich area we have extensive knowledge of working with the Dulwich Estate and surrounding conservation areas. These areas are protected by law and the local authority has a role to ensure that character and appearance of the conservation area is preserved and enhance through the planning process. Along side this the Dulwich Estate are committed to preserving the area’s character and aims to guide homeowners and commercial landlords to develop their properties in a sympathetic manner. This is great for the area but can pose difficulties for owners juggling the various needs of any project. These constraints need to be carefully managed, such as visual and massing impact, materials and impact on the neighbours.
The Dulwich Estate’s Scheme of Management approval process has seen an update recently, now working in two stages: First, approval of a design in principle (‘Permit’), followed by a completion inspection which checks that the implemented is in line with the drawings (‘Licence’). This is different to in the past when the Licence was issued at drawing approval stage.
The Dulwich Estates guidelines for developments is very helpful and with careful consultation and a reasonable approach to the context you can obtain some flexibility as each application is considered on its own merits. It is therefore possible to create interesting developments as the Dulwich Estate are keen to support the area as it evolves, as long as the development is not detrimental to the area.
With a long track record working with the Dulwich Estate, we have helped to navigate their concerns with those of neighbours and the needs of the project to produce some contemporary schemes such as our Dulwich Wood house or larger garden structures such as our Dulwich Orchard House project.
Conservation area applications are slightly different given that the planning officers’ decisions are based on local and national planning policies which can be challenged by appeal. As a result, precedents can be used to make the case for a positive decision, as long as it is relevant to the exact circumstances.
Here are our Top Tips for navigating projects within the Dulwich Estate and conservation areas:
- Look at the specific guidelines and ideally commission a designer that has experience working within the Estate and conservation areas to have the best chance of success.
- Work with your neighbours. The Estate and planning officers listen carefully to residents that may be affected by any alterations. If it makes sense to push the boundaries of the guidelines it needs to be shown that it can be done without negative impact onto neighbours’ amenity.
- Have a back-up plan should there not be universal support.
- If you are buying a property, check all alterations or additions have been licensed by the Estate. It has been known that alterations that do not have permission and contravene their guidelines have been subject to rectification if further work is being asked for approval.
- Do not start construction or order materials before approvals are received. If you can also wait for the approvals before starting technical design stage or stagger the design work to prioritise interior elements not affected by approvals (eg bathrooms, stairs).
- Check during construction that the implemented scheme conforms with the approved one in dimensions, details and materials.
- Consider environmental aspects early as additional elements such as external heat pumps or solar panels may need to be included in the application.