A location in a conservation area adds an extra layer of consideration to planning applications: special regard must be had to the preservation or enhancement of the conservation area, in addition to consideration of relevant development plan policies and other material considerations.

In a recent appeal (PPA-230-2162), City of Edinburgh Council’s refusal of an application for retrospective planning permission for an area of artificial lawn (approximately 255 square metres in size) in the Grange Conservation Area has been upheld.

A key factor influencing the Reporter appears to have been the ‘green-ness’ of the synthetic turf. He noted:

Due to its permanent green hue and apparent constant ‘health’ in all conditions… the artificial nature of the prefabricated material would be obvious to most regular passers-by and readily distinguishable from natural soft garden ground.

For this reason, the lawn was found to harm the naturalness of the garden setting and, in turn, the special ‘green character’ of the conversation area. This harm was found to outweigh the benefits of year-round usage of the garden and arguments that the synthetic lawn was more attractive than overgrown or unkempt gardens in the area.

Undoubtedly, this appeal decision represents a rather onerous interpretation of ‘development’, notwithstanding the conservation area location.

From the Reporter’s distinguishing of other planning cases concerning artificial turf it appears that his decision was strongly influenced by the prominence of the stone-built villa in question, occupying a generous garden on a corner plot, compared with more modest properties in conservation areas where comparable works had been carried out.

Arguably the retrospective nature of the planning application may also have contributed to the refusal, since there was limited scope to dispute the ‘green-ness’ or its visual impact given the turf had already been installed and was readily capable of inspection.

The message is clear: if your property is affected by any additional designations, such as conservation area status, it is worth getting professional advice on the planning and/or building control consents required before carrying out works.