AN OXFORD conservation group has been told a ban on UPVC windows in a historic part of the city cannot go ahead because it will cost £20,000.

The Friends of Old Headington group is concerned about the number of houses in the area replacing their windows with modern one which they say are out of character.

It was hoped that Oxford City Council could introduce a new regulation to prevent people from replacing their windows, installing solar panels or removing antique ridge tiles without planning permission.

At the moment making these minor alterations fall within “permitted development” which means planning permission is not needed, even though Old Headington is a conservation area.

Introducing a so-called article four direction would not prohibit these changes but mean they would have to be consulted on as part of the planning process.

But the group has been told it would cost too much and introducing the regulation would have to become a priority to justify spending that amount of money.

Veronica Hurst, the chairman of the Friends of Old Headington, said: “We feel that article four could play an important role in protecting the character and appearance of the conservation area.

“We appreciate that it would be expensive for the council, but we would hope – given that they have devoted considerable time and expense to producing a detailed conservation area appraisal for Old Headington – that they would be equally keen to protect the special features and character they have identified.”

Article four directions have already been introduced in Jericho in 2011 and Osney in 1994.

The city council has said introducing one would involve a house-by-house survey of the whole conservation area to establish the current situation on replacement windows and survival of historic windows. It would also mean a formal consultation and legal fees.

Headington city councillor Ruth Wilkinson said: “If two different areas are done together, for example Old Headington and Headington Quarry, this might lead to a reduction in costs to a sum nearer £30,000 for the two, but both parties need to be agreable to this.

“Another way to reduce start-up costs would be if the Friends of these conservation areas are prepared to do some of the research themselves.”

The history of Old Headington can be traced back to the 12th century.

Most of the houses in Old Headington were built between the 17th and 19th centuries and, despite being surrounded by the city, it retains the character of a village.

City council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “Based on the costs of such work when we introduced the article four direction in Jericho, the ballpark figure of £20,000 is considered reasonable.

“In these times of pressure on public sector budgets, all new projects require careful evaluation and prioritisation to make sure we can afford them.”