Planning permission – Do You Need It?

Home improvement is big business these days.

Rather than moving house, many people are opting to stay put and build extensions or add loft conversions to increase their living space and the value of their home.

But before you start building, you need to be aware of any building regulations, planning permission for house extensions or other legislation that you need to conform to.

The good news is that planning permission laws have undergone a massive period of change recently, which means that not all house extensions need planning permission.

But don’t automatically assume that you fall into that category!

Never start a house extension without checking on the relevant regulations first and whether you need to put in aplanning application before starting work.

To help you determine whether your planned extension will require planning permission, here are five frequently asked questions:

#1 - Do I need planning permission?

As we said above, there are plenty of situations where planning permission is not required.

For example, you don’t need permission to build as long as your extension conforms to strict guidelines on height in comparison to the existing property. So a side extension that is a single storey would have to be a maximum height of four metres and no wider than half the width of the original house.

Where the extension is positioned is also important. For example, two-storey extensions cannot be within seven metres of the rear boundary of the property.

There are lots of other designations and compliance requirements for a house extension to qualify as a ‘permitted development’, so an hour invested in your own research will be time well spent. And remember: these requirements are only applicable for certain parts of the UK.

#2 – Okay, I’ve checked all that – so I can just go ahead and build, right?

Even if you apparently comply with all the requirements to qualify your house extension as a permitted development, you still have to ensure that your plans meet all building regulations.

This can include everything from ensuring that there is adequate drainage included in the plans, through energy efficiency and glass to floor ratios right down to the colour of the doors.

#3 – My extension is internal – do I still need permission?

Extensions into loft spaces, attics or cellars may not need planning permission, but again they must comply with all relevant building regulations. 

They are normally regarded as permitted development according to most planning permission legislation, however, there are size restrictions on loft extensions.

For a terraced property the extension can be no more than 40 cubic metres, and for detached and semi-detached houses it’s 50 cubic metres. Remember that any previous roof space additions must be included in that volume allowance.

There are also restrictions on the materials you use, and verandas, raised platforms or balconies are not included as part of a permitted development because they alter the external appearance of the property.

#4 – What if I share a party wall with my neighbours?

A party wall is the partition or dividing wall between two properties, and ownership is shared by the two property owners on either side.

Alterations to a property that may impact on the integrity of the party wall will be covered by The Party Wall etc Act 1966, which was introduced to help deal with disputes between neighbours.

If you are planning a house extension that will in impact on a shared party wall you may need to check the building regulations and the Party Wall Act to ensure that your plans comply.

#5 – I live in a conservation area. What do I need to know?

Conservation areas are designed to preserve the character and look of an area of special note. It may be that the buildings in the area are unique or play an integral part in the formation of the landscape.

If you live in a conservation area you will be covered by strict regulations on what you can and cannot do without permission.

Even something as simple as changing the windows or doors may breach building regulations in conservation areas. This means that any external house extensions will almost invariably require planning permission.

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