Whether you want to increase the size of your home with an extension or loft project, or have your sights set on a characterful barn conversion, your ideal scheme might be easier to achieve than you realise.
There’s a whole range of home alterations that you can undertake without spending time and money on a planning application. Laid down in the Town and Country Planning Order 2015, permitted development legislation offers a way to streamline some home improvement projects.
In recent years, a whole host of amendments have expanded the scope of permitted development (PD), enabling self builders and renovators to carry out home improvement and conversion projects without having to obtain planning permission.
However, current development rights are still complex with interpretations differing between local planning departments. If you plan to undertake works under PD, there are strict rules you’ll need to adhere to. Here’s what you need to know.
Changes to permitted development rights after May 2019
The established permitted development rights were reviewed in 2012 and relaxed to further encourage the development of existing properties (and to lessen the burden on local planning authorities in determining planning applications).
Following a further revision in 2015, and a new Order in 2016, these rights were put in place until May 2019.
The linear approach used here is based purely on the distance an extension protrudes from the building. Maximum sizes and heights for rear and side extensions apply, regardless of the size of the original house. Owners of small houses will benefit proportionately more than those of large ones.
These rules appear to be based around the notion of a standard-house and the one-size-fits-all approach makes for some interesting outcomes when applied to ‘non-standard’ arrangements.
For example, for an isolated house in the countryside, being restricted to a single storey for a side extension but allowed two or more stories to the rear makes no logical sense.
Be aware that the rules are less generous in ‘designated areas’. This will probably mean conservation areas, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks.
Loft conversions have never needed planning permission, it’s only externally visible works altering or extending a roof that do. As with extensions, restrictions for this type of project rely on calculations of volume.
Roof extensions must start a minimum of 20cm above the eaves, while PD allows for external roof alterations like solar panels and protruding rooflights on front-facing roof elevations, except, inevitably, in designated areas.
PD legislation specifies a maximum eaves height as well as ridge height restrictions for garden gardens, and, importantly, overall limits on the amount (in square metres) of outbuildings allowed before a need for planning permission kicks in. With the limits set at 20m square metres for smaller gardens and 30 square metres for larger, this is a radical reduction in previous allowances.
The reference to a limit of 10 square metres for outbuildings, garages and swimming pools more than 20 metres from the house in designated areas is an interesting one. What kind of garage or swimming pool has a footprint of 10 square metres – that’s say 5 metres by 2 metres – who would build a garage that barely offers enough room for a car before the doors are opened, or a pool not much bigger than a bath?
New revisions to permitted development rights came into force on the 6th April 2018, providing more options to convert agricultural buildings into family homes. Introduced by Housing Minister Dominic Raab, the rules were introduced to ease rural housing pressures by increasing the number of properties that can be developed from existing agricultural buildings.
Previously, planning regulations limited the number to three properties, but the new amendments have now raised the maximum to allow conversions of up to five new homes.
Remember, even if changes to your house don’t need planning permission, they probably need Building Regulations approval. Always check before you start work!
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