Choosing a Roof Covering in West Cornwall

A guide to roof coverings appropriate to West Cornwall including roof coverings for listed buildings, buildings in Article 4 directive areas, conservation areas and more

There are a lot of different ways to replace your roof. This page is going to touch on the more popular roofing choices for this part of the world – lovely West Cornwall!

Lots of factors will come into the equation – cost, appearance, weight etc but the most important thing is what the local council will allow. It doesn’t matter what you can afford or what you would like – if your house is a Listed Building or in an article 4 direction area – then the choice is pretty much out of your hands and you will have to deal with your local planning office and be dictated to by them.

This is not always a bad thing as it’s good to keep properties looking as traditional as possible, but it does grate a bit when you are told you must have an expensive wet laid roof, despite the fact that all your neighbours have continental or cement fibre slate, just because their roof was replaced before the article 4 direction was introduced to the area.

In all instances the property owner should contact their local authority and ascertain exactly what they should do.

As an extra service JS Roofing can apply for planning applications, fill out building regs forms, draw and submit scale drawings etc all on your behalf, but ultimately the responsibility to have the correct roof will always lie with the property owner.

The following are general guidelines only; there are no ‘black and white’ rules to follow with planning, with each case being judged on its own merits.

Roofs for Listed Buildings

If a property is listed it is likely that the property will need Listed Building Consent to replace the roof with any material other than that which is on the roof at the time it was listed. Even if you replace ‘like for like’ you will HAVE to speak to the local authority about what you intend to do. To do things to listed buildings without consent is punishable by firing squad these days. No, it really is.

Not all Listed buildings with Scantle roofs HAVE to be replaced like for like. Sometimes the LA will allow it to be re-roofed in wet laid 12″ x 8″ continental slates – (for some reason roofers still deal in feet and inches – 300mm x 200mm to everyone else). The most popular foreign (read foreign as ‘cheap’) slates for wet laying are Chinese slates or Brazilian or Spanish slates. (Bear in mind that the LA are not interested in the substance or quality of the slate – merely the appearance). The reason that these particular continental slates are popular is because their small size and colour is similar (ish!) to the traditional Cornish Delabole slate. Actually Chinese and Brazilian slates are very good slates with a long life span in excess of 80 years.

We recently replaced a completely dilapidated roof at the Lands End complex. To the left of the main building somebody about 30 years ago decided to replace the small roof – on a 200 year old building – with Spanish slates fixed with roof hooks…and a nice coat of bitumen to weather the wall. Or it may have just been an act of vandalism by the Spanish Armada (I know, I know, that was way before but it seemed such a good thing to say), but you can see why the Listed Building rules are there – to protect old buildings like this from abuse!

Roofing in Article 4 Direction Areas

If a property is not listed but is in an article 4 direction area – This withdraws the property’s permitted development rights. Usually article 4 directions are aimed at properties in conservation areas, but this is not always the case. Minimum requirement would usually be 12″ x 8″ (300mm x 200mm) nailed slate – either Brazilian, Chinese or Spanish. Colour needs to be green/grey or grey, but a sample would need to be given to the planning office as each area can have specific demands, and a full planning application would have to be made – with scale drawings and building regs.

Currently for a new roof in an article 4 direction area the planning application is free (with some exceptions) but there is a charge for building regs which has been set at £100.00.

Roofing in Conservation Areas

If a property is not listed but in a conservation area but not with an article 4 direction (gets confusing doesn’t it?) Then the Local Authority would prefer you to use traditional roofing materials, so you could use any of the above or 16″ x 8″ (400 x 200) continental slate, nailed or hooked, but by definition if they are saying they would prefer you to use something then it means you can use something else. The Local Authority would advise that you obtain a certificate of lawfulness – which basically states that you do not need planning permission for what you want to do – which is half the cost of a planning application (which is free anyway for a new roof!). You will also need to apply for building regs.

Roofing where there are no planning restrictions

If the property is not listed and not in a conservation area – the world – in the immortal words of Del-Boy Trotter – is your lobster.

You can do what you want – any of the above or 20″ x 10″ (500 x 250) continental slates or 24″ x 12″ (600 x 300) cement fibre (synthetic man made) slates, or even tiles. The only restriction you will have then is the weight of the replacement covering – you would need a structural survey if for instance you were replacing slates with tiles. The LA recommends that you apply for a certificate of lawfulness and building regs have to be applied for.

The following is an extract from Penwith District Cornwall Council’s (now Cornwall Council’s) web-site:

As of the 14th April 2006 the Council resolved to end its procedure of providing informal advice as to whether planning permission is required. Therefore, if individuals wish to find out from the Council whether their proposed development would require planning permission, an application for a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Use or Development is required. There is a statutory application fee that is charged which is calculated as 50% of the fee for an application for planning permission for the same proposal. Any decision that is made is a formal decision of this Council as to whether planning permission is required. If it is decided that the proposal does not require planning permission, a Certificate of Lawfulness will be issued. It does not grant planning permission. If individuals do not wish to submit an application for a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Use or Development, there are other sources of information available, though none would constitute a formal determination by this Council:

  • Advice is given on various web sites, including Cornwall Council and
  • Refer to Government publications. A relevant Government booklet is available free of charge from the Council’s Sustainable Development and Improvement Service reception.
  • Seek the advice of a planning consultant, architect, surveyor or other relevant professional. They are not obliged to advise you and can charge for any advice that they give.

The best advice I can give in choosing the roof you want (assuming you have a choice) is to look at the type of property it is –

  • Granite built or block & render?
    Any granite walled house would look much better with natural slates.
  • What do the neighbours have?
    If the majority of the neighbourhood has been re-roofed with cement fibre slates, it may be nice to have natural slates but I doubt it would put any extra value on the property.
  • Money will be a factor
    Slates are more expensive than tiles, and the smaller the slate the more labour it will take to install them so the costlier the job will be.
  • How big is the roof?
    A small roof or big roof with small elevations lends itself to small slates, a big roof with large elevations lends itself to large slates or tiles.

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