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Are you looking forward to improving your home but are put off by having to obtain planning consent before you can start a big building project? Dealing with your local planning authority can be a stressful and drawn-out process but the good news is that planning permission often isn’t actually needed.

The reason for this lies in something called Permitted Development Rights which most property owners are granted. PD rights allow you to enjoy the benefit of being able to carry out a wide range of renovations and upgrades without having to undergo a full planning application.


How does Permitted Development work?

This government scheme first came into force in 2015 as the General Permitted Development Order, a statutory instrument. It was created to allow homeowners to make alterations to their homes without having to obtain planning consent for specific projects. Instead, ‘blanket’ consent is given for a broad range of works. As long as your project adheres to the guidelines and specific criteria set out here, you are free to transform your space as you wish.

The implied consent applies separately to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The scheme was recently expanded to include bigger projects and more options for home improvements in England, including major re-developments such as turning commercial office blocks into residential accommodation.

Here is a handy video that explains the process in detail:

While Permitted Development Rights can undoubtedly make your life a whole lot easier when it comes to making home improvements, it is unfortunately the case that the legislation is complex and often confusing, and there are strict rules around what is and isn’t permitted. That’s why it is always highly advisable that you check with your local planning authority before you proceed with any building plans to ensure that you will be acting in accordance with the law. Better still, cover yourself by obtaining a lawful development certificate from the relevant planning authority before you start construction.

When do Permitted Development Rights NOT apply?

While Permitted Development applies on the condition that certain guidelines and criteria are adhered to, there are also some situations where these rights won’t apply or may have been restricted or removed. Crucially, this includes leasehold properties such as flats and maisonettes, listed buildings, homes in Conservation Areas and other Designated Areas:

  • If you live in a flat or maisonette, Permitted Development Rights do not apply because of the conditions of the Lease and the impact any alterations could have on neighbouring properties.
  • If you live in a listed building or a Designated Area including a Conservation Area, National Park, AONB or The Broads, your Permitted Development rights may have been restricted or removed under an Article 4 direction, in the interests of maintaining the building’s or area’s special character.

What can you build under Permitted Development?

Assuming that your home and the proposed works meet all the criteria for Permitted Development, the scope of internal and external works you can carry out is wide and varied. They range from knocking down internal walls to building a porch, putting up antennae and satellite dishes and even building single and double-storey extensions at the rear of the property.

We’ve put together some of the most popular projects you can carry out without planning permission. These are popular property renovations that owners and landlords carry out to:

  • improve their property
  • increase the space inside
  • be more eco-conscious and
  • (hopefully) add capital value.

Converting the loft

One of the best, and often easiest, ways to increase the amount of habitable space in a property is by way of a loft extension. A new room in the attic adds value to the house and provides additional space for a bedroom, home office, TV lounge, teenage den, hobby studio or a myriad of other uses.

Adding rooflights and dormer windows are both covered under your Permitted Development rights, which means various options for room layouts and roof alterations can be considered. There is a maximum permitted volume of 40 cubic metres of additional roof space for terraced houses (50 cubic metres for semi-detached and detached houses), and you should ensure the use of similar building materials to the rest of the property and keep the same roof pitch.

While you may not need planning permission for a loft conversion, don’t forget that for terraced and semi-detached homes, you will need to comply with party wall legislation. The Party Wall Act 1996 came into force to “prevent and resolve disputes between neighbours in relation to alterations to a party structure such as a shared wall,” explains a leading property expert, and it is vitally important that the specific process set out by law is followed to the letter.

Solar PV installation

With the current energy crisis in full swing and increased energy regulation, rooftop solar arrays are experiencing renewed interest. Homeowners are keen to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels by generating their own solar power and, as a result, lower their utility bills. Energy prices are at an all-time high, meaning installing solar PV panels on the roof could pay for itself in as little as four years.

Check to see which way your roof faces before you make the investment. Solar panels should be positioned on an unshaded south, south-west or south-east facing roof for optimum energy generation. They should be sited so as to minimise their visual impact on the building and on the neighbourhood, and must not protrude by more than 20mm beyond the roof plane.

Incidentally, did you know that photovoltaic (PV) installations don’t have to be mounted onto the roof of your house? If your roof isn’t suitable, you could also put a solar array on an outbuilding or even mount it on the ground. Under Permitted Development, the installation of microgeneration equipment including solar panels (though not wind turbines) is covered. And in case you’re wondering, other renewable technologies such as heat pumps are also permitted.

External home insulation

Making buildings energy efficient is now a top priority for many homeowners. If you want to future-proof your home against rising energy costs while making it more sustainable in the face of climate change, better home insulation should be your first port of call. Unfortunately, many houses (and period properties in particular) are woefully underinsulated, with most heat loss occurring through the walls, doors and windows (35%), roof (25%) and floor (10%).

There are two ways that home insulation can be added to improve energy efficiency: internally or externally. Internal home insulation doesn’t require planning permission. However, it can be a messy and disruptive job, involving the repositioning of internal fixtures such as window and door frames, skirting boards, electrical points and radiators. It is for this reason that many people prefer to go down the external insulation route.

Luckily, with the benefit of Permitted Development rights, exterior home insulation is also classed as internal work if its application doesn’t alter the building’s outside appearance. Rigid insulation board and external cladding can be fitted as long as this doesn’t make the building taller or move the front elevation closer to the roadside. The building’s original appearance should be broadly matched when it comes to painting, repairing or replacing any external cladding.

Converting the garage

If you have an integrated garage that isn’t used for car parking, have you considered converting it to add precious living space to your home? With cars now generally wider and longer than the vehicles these garages were originally designed for, these days the space is much more likely to be used for storage. A garage conversion could be a savvy investment adding an extra downstairs room that could be used as a guest room, home office, TV lounge, home gym, playroom and more.

Repurposing a garage for residential use won’t require planning permission since the work is purely internal and as long as the finished result doesn’t enlarge the building at the front of the house. Replacing the old garage door with a window is also covered under your Permitted Development rights.

Building a rear extension

Another obvious way to increase the value of your property is to add to its footprint with a building extension. This is a common move by homeowners looking for more space. Or, landlords looking to get more rental income, possibly looking to expand their property into a HMO. Under Permitted Development, you are able to build a small porch (less than 3m2) to the front of the house to create a more generous entrance area.

At the back of the house, Permitted Development rights allow you to construct both single and double-storey extensions, subject to restrictions in size and other criteria.

  • Single-storey extensions must not extend beyond the rear wall of the existing house by 6 metres (8 metres for a detached house), and take up less than 50% of the size of the land surrounding the original house
  • Conservatories and orangeries – these types of buildings follow the same rules as ground floor extensions (see above)
  • Single-storey side extensions or side return extensions, provided the addition is less than 50% of the width of the original house
  • Two-storey rear extensions, provided the addition doesn’t extend further than 3 metres from the original house and doesn’t come within 7 metres of the rear boundary. The building materials should match the rest of the house.

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