Homeowner paints house almost black in conservation area — and can keep it

A brick house partially painted dark grey/black whilst the neighbouring houses are all red brick houses
A homeowner in Henley has painted their house a shade of black which has upset some neighbours as the house is in a conservation area (Image credit: Henley Herald)

A homeowner in Henley-on-Thames has upset neighbours by painting her home anthracite, despite the home being in a conservation area.

The local council were powerless to stop the painting as they claimed "within a conservation Area, there are no Article 4 directions" and so planning permission was not required.

This has frustrated locals and led to criticism of the look of the house in the area with one claiming that "some homeowners do not understand the meaning & need of conservation."

What is an Article 4 Directive?

An Article 4 Directive is a planning regulation that can be implemented by a local planning authority to restrict or remove certain permitted development rights within a specific area.

Permitted development rights typically grant homeowners or developers the freedom to carry out certain types of development without the need to apply for planning permission.

Under the Article 4 Directive, the local planning authority can require individuals or developers to obtain planning permission for specific types of development that would otherwise be permitted under the general regulations. 

The directive aims to protect the character, appearance, or amenity of a designated area, such as a conservation area or an area of special architectural or historic interest.

By implementing an Article 4 Directive, the local planning authority seeks to ensure that any proposed development in the designated area undergoes a thorough assessment and is in line with the specific character and requirements of the area.

Planning approval for anthracite colour

In May, Emma Wallace-Madeley obtained permitted development planning approval to paint her home anthracite, a dark grey colour.

This is despite the home being located on King's Road in Henley-on-Thames, which is a conservation area. The project was allowed to begin last month.

Why was the homeowner allowed to paint her home?

According to the report from the planning officer at the South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC), “within a conservation Area, there are no Article 4 directions restricting development of the dwelling.”

Therefore, the council claim they could do nothing to stop the painting.

A spokesperson for SODC stated to Homebuilding & Renovating: "The relevant class of the General Permitted Development Order does not specify or exclude any paint colours."

As the property fell within a Conservation area SODC were the council with the authority with regards to planning and permitted development applications, despite Henley Town Council's (HTC) questioning of the decision.

Tom Buckley, Chair of the HTC Planning Committee, said: “SODC have confirmed to HTC that they knew of no reason for Conservation Officers to be involved and no planning permission was needed to paint exterior of the house; nor was there anything they could do in regards to the colour chosen.”

A red brick house with a brick wall in front

Residents have complained about the new colour and say it shouldn't be allowed as it doesnt match the rest of the area (Image credit: Google Earth)

'It looks terrible and cheap' neighbours claim

This has led to local residents complaining about the property and questioning how the home was allowed to be painted this colour.

One neighbour noted: "It looks terrible and cheap. Plus will flake & look run down in few years without constant attention.

"SODC needs to learn from this as obviously some homeowners do not understand the meaning and need of conservation."

Another stated: "Unbelievable considering no sky dishes can face the highway on this Conservation road and owners have to go to extra expense to install them away from view."

Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.