Renovations on older homes

If you’re privileged enough to live in an historic building, you’re incredibly lucky to have somewhere so special as your home. But every silver lining has a cloud – and in the case of historic buildings, it may rain a little on your home improvement parade.

The planning laws are stricter for buildings of historic interest than for ordinary buildings. This is a good thing – it means insensitive owners can’t alter them with no regard for their heritage. But it does mean extra hoops to jump through if you want or need to carry out renovations on an older home. The work needs to be sensitive and appropriate, and you may not be allowed to do things that other homeowners can do – even things they can do without planning permission.

As the owner of an historic building, you hopefully already know the reasons why it’s important, but make sure you are completely versed in these when you start planning the work. You may want to use traditional building materials and methods where possible to keep the character of the building, although modern technology and materials are sometimes preferable, allowing you to better preserve the building. Finding the right materials and methods can be difficult, but your architect and your district or borough council's planning department will be able to help.

Listed buildings

A building is listed when it is of nationally important architectural or historic interest. You will therefore need listed building consent for any work that affects its architectural or historic character, including alterations, extensions and work inside the building, even if it isn't visible from the outside.

Listed building consent, like planning permission, is dealt with by the council. They can advise you on what would count as affecting a building's character.

Listed buildings are recorded on the National Heritage List for England, so if you’re not sure if your home is listed, or want more information about why it is listed, that’s where to look.

Conservation areas

The restrictions in conservation areas are much less strict, but sometimes the council will impose something called an ‘article 4 direction’ to protect particular architectural features. This will restrict some types of work that wouldn't normally require planning permission, such as replacing windows. The council can tell you if an article 4 direction exists.


You can be prosecuted for cutting down a tree in a conservation area without permission. If the tree is more than 75mm in diameter at a height of 1.5m, you must give the council six weeks' notice of any work you plan to do to it. This allows the council to consider protecting the tree with a tree preservation order.

South east London and Kent architects Bluelime Home Design are passionate advocates of restoring older buildings with love and care – and we've had the privilege of working on many historic house renovations in our 13 years in business. We have offices in DartfordBromleyErithBexley and Croydon – call us on 01322 517632 for a chat about how we can help.

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