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Planning Permission Loophole for Conservation Areas 16 July 2007

An interesting loophole exists in the planning system which may permit you or your neighbours to install UPVC windows many years after a conservation area has been introduced.

The loophole relates primarily to the amount of time which is permitted to carry out a change which has been approved under a previous application. Typically planning permission is granted for 4 years, but if any part of the work commences within those 4 years then the permission remains valid ad-infinitum.

A homeowner installed UPVC windows on the front of a house within a conservation area some 6 years after the granting of permission in 2001 (which would be valid for 4 years), but because UPVC windows had been installed on the back during the 4 years the homeowner was within his rights to continue with the front, albeit a couple of years later.

We suggested that this was a mockery of the planning system and a blatant abuse, but we were advised by the enforcement officer that it was not.

We went further and asked the enforcement officer:

"A neighbour of ours installed a single PVC window shortly before the conservation area came in, can we conclude they would be well within their rights to complete the process of installing their PVC double glazing in 2037?"

To which his response was:

"If they have planning approval to install PVC-u windows and there is the condition regarding commencement on the approval and they commenced before the 4 years was up, yes they could. But 2037 is 30 years from now, I just cannot see someone taking that long. Normally it happens within a few years of the approval."

We also asked a conservation officer who advised us that in his view the position is not ideal, but one he has to work within.

The conclusion appears to be that if you are about to be placed in a conservation area, but think you might like UPVC windows you may be well advised to seek planning permission for the whole house and to install a UPVC window on the smallest one to keep your options open.

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