Wolverton is just one of 27 Conservation Areas within Milton Keynes although it is the largest. It was introduced in 2001 and revised in 2008. The most significant factor for most people was introduced in 2003 and is what is known as “an article 4(2) direction” which (paraphrased) means that almost any change which alters the front appearance of a building (including the roofline), and some things which affect the rear, now need Planning Permission. There is a minor consolation to residents that any Planning Permission which is required solely to meet an article 4(2) direction is free of charge but that is little help when faced with reams of paperwork before undertaking what might have seemed a simple piece of DIY.
The article 4(2) direction covers roof tiles, windows, doors and door surrounds, chimneys, fences, porches, terracotta mouldings and even render (to name a few). However, windows and doors make up the main body of enquiries so that’s what I’ll concentrate on here.
The aim of the Conservation Area is not to force people to live as our ancestors did in draughty rooms with coal fires and outside toilets. The aim is to preserve the appearance of the area as a whole when built. This leads to: -
· If the windows or doors are original, they shall, if at all possible, be repaired or restored. If restoration or repair is not possible, they shall be replaced like-for-like. [Note, like-for-like means just that; an identical copy of the original. Same material (wood), same number of panes, same opening style (Sash), same ornamentation (for example “horns”), same dimensions]
· If the windows or doors are not original, they can be replaced. There is however, a strong preference that the replacement moves closer to the original Victorian appearance. This means that replacing uPVC with wood or replacing awning or casement windows with sash are more likely to get permission. Replacing a uPVC sash with a uPVC awning is not.
The original designs are no less practical now than they were in the 1900’s.
Sash windows were used because they were simple (look at the “hinge” on a typical modern uPVC unit), practical and did not extend outwards when open. The latter is particularly important for the ground floor of houses opening on to the street where outward opening windows form a hazard to pedestrians!
Wood was (and is) practical. Treated properly it lasts for years (witness the number of 100 year old windows still around!) and looks less harsh than modern materials. It’s also easier to repair after minor damage.
One of the most important details are the “horns” which can be seen on many windows. In the late 1800’s it became possible to make larger panes of glass; constructing the wooden frames to hold a few, large, panes instead of lots of smaller ones meant that the frames became weaker. The Victorian solution was to strengthen the corners by extending the wood in an ornate pattern or “horn”.
Because of the look, many manufacturers now offer Victorian decoration and horns in replacement windows; both wood and uPVC. In searching for new windows, it’s these little details which make permission more likely to be granted.
Councillor Adrian Moss
Chair of Planning – Wolverton and Greenleys Town Council