Listed buildings, conservation areas and other restrictions

This page looks at additional consent you may need to get before carrying out improvements or alterations to your home. You may need extra consent if you live in a listed building or your home is in a conservation area, or if you want to carry out work to trees on your land or have bats roosting in your home. This is in addition to, not instead of, planning permission and/or a building warrant.

What if I live in a conservation area or listed building?

If you live in a conservation area or listed building, you will probably need to apply for additional consent before you can carry out any alterations or improvements to your home. This is so that the planning department can make sure that areas of particular historic or architectural interest retain their character.

What is a conservation area?

There are over 600 designated conservation areas in Scotland, all of which have some kind of special historic or architectural significance worth preserving. For example, Edinburgh's mediaeval Old Town and Georgian New Town are conservation areas. Contact the planning department at your local council to find out if you live in a conservation area.

How will this affect me if I want to alter my home?

If you live in a conservation area, you may need planning permission to carry out work which is normally allowed under planning rules or which doesn't require a building warrant, such as:

  • changing windows and doors

  • putting up fences or gates

  • building a porch or small extension, or

  • installing a satellite dish.

Permission will be granted if you can show that the work you're planning will not harm the character or appearance of the area. You probably won't require planning permission for any internal alterations, although it's best to contact the planning department to make sure.

You must also give the planning department six weeks' notice if you wish to carry out any work which involves cutting down, uprooting or lopping trees. They can then, if they choose, issue a tree preservation order (TPO) preventing you from doing so (see 'what is a tree preservation order' below).

What is conservation area consent?

If you wish to demolish an unlisted building in a conservation area, you'll need to apply for conservation consent. You can pick up an application form from the planning department or possibly download it from your council's website. There is no charge for making an application for conservation consent.

What is listed building consent?

If your home is a listed building, you may need listed building consent before you can carry out work that may alter the character or structure of the building. This includes internal and minor external alterations which don't usually require planning permission, such as putting up a partition wall, replacing doors and windows, painting your home a different colour or installing a satellite dish.

To find out if your home is listed, visit the Historic Scotland website.

How do I apply for listed building consent?

You can pick up an application form from the planning department, or possibly download one from your council's website. If the work you want to carry out also requires planning permission, most planning departments will let you submit your listed building consent and planning permission applications at the same time. There is no charge for applying for listed building consent.

What if I don't apply for listed building consent?

It's an offence to carry out alterations to a listed building without getting consent, and you could face a fine or even a prison sentence.

Can the planning department help with the work?

The planning department may be able to offer guidance on:

  • how to ensure the work you want to carry out won't spoil the historic character or appearance of your home

  • hiring an architect, surveyor or builder who specialises in working on listed buildings or properties in conservation areas

  • sourcing traditional building materials such as stone or slate

  • buying traditional fittings and fixtures to enhance your home.

Where can I get further help and advice?

  • Historic Scotland offer advice and information on carrying out repairs and alterations to listed buildings.

  • The Building Conservation Directory lists over 1,000 companies and charitable organisations involved in building conservation, including architects, craftspeople and funders.

  • You can search for a builder who specialises in traditional work at the Find A Builder website.

Can I get financial help?

If your home is of particular historic interest, you may be able to get a grant from Historic Scotland to carry out essential repairs. Historic Scotland also produces a listing possible sources of funding for repairs to historic buildings. Many of these are only available to not-for-profit organisations or community projects, but some will accept applications from individuals.

What is a tree preservation order?

If a tree is protected by a tree preservation order (TPO), it means that you can't chop it down, lop the branches, top it, uproot it or deliberately damage it in any way without the consent of the planning department. If you do, you could face an unlimited fine. The planning department will be able to tell you if any trees on your land are protected. TPOs can protect single trees or groups of trees, for example a copse or woodland.

If you want to carry out work which involves trees protected by a TPO but which doesn't require planning permission, you will need to write to the planning department to ask their consent. If the work you want to do requires planning permission, the planning department will consider whether or not you should be allowed to uproot or otherwise damage the tree while they are assessing your application as a whole.

What if there are bats roosting in my home?

Bats and their roosts are protected by law: it's illegal to kill, injure or capture a bat or to deliberately disturb its roost. If you have bats in your home, you must get in touch with your nearest Scottish Natural Heritage office before doing anything which may disturb their roost, such as carrying out repairs or improvements to your roof or loft.

You can find out more about bats and what to do if you find them in your home at the Bat Conservation Trust website.

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Last updated: 29 December 2014

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