Living in London's conservation areas: new homes with protected status

New and more relaxed planning rules will make it easier for developers to build on smaller sites. One way to avoid a development free-for-all in popular districts is for local council's to give them conservation status.
Click to follow
About 1,000 of the UK’s 9,800 conservation areas are in London and more are likely to be designated in the capital as boroughs try to avoid a development free-for-all following changes to relax the planning system.

Under new rules, developers will get automatic rights to build on smaller sites and homeowners will find it easier to add extensions of up to two storeys.

One way to avoid a building stampede in popular districts is to give them conservation area status, if the area can be shown to be worthy of “preservation or enhancement”.

New homes are not outlawed in conservation areas, but builders are subject to additional scrutiny and any new scheme has to score highly for its quality. This means that any new conservation area address will come at a price.

You are likely to pay a double premium — first, for the privilege of enjoying special architectural character or historic interest, and second for all the benefits that new homes offer compared with buying a period property, including flexible room layouts, energy efficiency and lower running costs.


On the other hand, resale values hold well in conservation areas, which are often thoughtfully landscaped, with better traffic-management than in other areas. Usually the sense of community is strong, and residents have the satisfaction of knowing their property is part of a protected area. Tougher planning rules will continue to apply in conservation areas, and watchful residents will help ensure that any new housing is in-keeping with the area’s architectural fabric.

Remarkably, one in five conservation areas in London is in danger of losing its special character because of “neglect, decay or damaging change”, according to English Heritage. Plastic doors and windows are the biggest threat — these so-called home improvements are allowed unless specifically outlawed by the local council.

Meeting high standards in Highgate
Lying across the Heath from Hampstead, six miles north of central London, ancient village Highgate has offered fresh air and sylvan views to rich Londoners since Elizabethan times.

The hilltop village is still recognisable as such, with independent shops, “country” pubs, a famous school, a landmark cemetery, marvellous Pond Square, and a pocket of mainly Georgian properties where the Highgate Society, one of the capital’s most active and progressive amenity groups, is based.

Highgate has a number of adventurous modern houses in keeping with the area’s literary and radical tradition. One premier address in the village is The Grove, where houses dating from  the 1680s are set back from the road behind an avenue of trees.

A surfeit of blue plaques celebrate famous past residents, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the opium-addicted poet who lived in a splendid double-fronted property now owned by supermodel Kate Moss. Jude Law and George Michael have also chosen to live here.

From £8.95 million: Georgian-style Grove Villas in The Grove, Highgate, replaced a Seventies block and are more in keeping with homes on this prestigious street. Call 020 8209 1149

A small block of flats built in the Seventies and owned by the Russian Trade Delegation managed to slip through the quality control net, but what was an architectural eyesore has been bulldozed to make way for a pair of Georgian-style townhouses that neatly dovetail with neighbouring properties.

Called Grove Villas, each house has 6,200sq ft of inside space, spread over six floors, connected by a showpiece glass-walled lift, and incorporates a studio apartment with its own side entrance. A long, landscaped garden offers views towards Hampstead Heath. Prices start from £8.95 million. Call 020 8209 1149.

“Virtually every house in the road is listed, so this is an opportunity unlikely ever to be repeated,” says Richard Galland, of developer Octagon. 
From £675,000: new flats at Kidderpore Green have been built on the site of a fomer college campus in Hampstead. Call 0844 811 4321 

Much bigger projects can work successfully in conservation areas. A sensitive redevelopment of a college campus in Hampstead has yielded Kidderpore Green, 128 new Arts and Crafts-style homes.

Working within the conservation area constraints, PKS Architects had to balance the different urban contexts of the site, bounded on one side by bustling Finchley Road and set along sedate Kidderpore Avenue on the other. A former library is being converted into apartments, while Hampstead School of Art gets a new contemporary-design pavilion. Barratt launches the scheme in September. Prices from £675,000 to £3.2 million. Call 0844 811 4321.

Preservation society
Conservation area status is not merely a tool for keeping uncaring developers at bay, but controlling and improving the quality of the housing stock, says Malcolm Bacchus, chairman of Telegraph Hill Conservation Society in south-east London, which has successfully prevented “inappropriate modernistic designs”.

“In some conservation areas, contemporary architecture can work well, but not in ours. It is a conservation area not because of the beauty of individual properties, but because it is a fine example of a complete Victorian estate laid out by a livery company.

Original proposals to build modern houses on a disused reservoir site were ditched after objections from the society. Instead, developer St James built nine Victorian-style houses that slot inoffensively into the streetscape. But the conservation society lost the battle to stop a scheme of modern-ish houses being built on a corner plot at Gellatly Road. Called the Old Bakery, prices start at £925,000. Call estate agent Caddington Blue on 020 7407 9427.

Few and far between
St Edmund’s Terrace is a rare new-build development overlooking picturesque Primrose Hill. Modern but restrained design by architect Squire & Partners features Portland stone, glass and bronze. Large apartments (from 1,558sq ft) have tall, rectangular bays and there is also a spa, swimming pool, gym, porterage and underground parking. Prices start from £4 million. Call 020 7499 8644.

Abell & Cleland in Westminster is a 275-home development on the site of former ministry buildings in the Millbank conservation area. Call 020 7720 4000.

The Firs at Wimbledon Hill Park offers contemporary-designed homes overlooking protected parkland in the Copse Hill conservation area. Prices from £4.95 million. Call 020 8003 1591. Also check out Mill Hill Place, 38 apartments in gated grounds in Mill Hill Village conservation area. Prices from £1,195,000. Call 020 8954 8626.

Follow us on Twitter @HomesProperty, Facebook and Instagram