Home Improvements that don’t need planning permission (usually)

If you’ve been thinking about a new porch or a conservatory, or perhaps converting your loft or building an extension, the chances are the thought of having to get planning permission first has put you right off the idea.

What you may not have realised is that many home improvement and building projects don’t require planning permission, provided a few simple rules are followed. If in doubt, your local planning office will be able to advise or ask your chosen installer / contractor – they should know what’s allowed and what isn’t.

The Government has relaxed the planning rules on what is ‘permitted development’, in an effort to remove much of the red tape surrounding home improvements. You’ll still need to comply with building regulations though.

For example, you’ve probably noticed one or two new porches appearing in your neighbourhood. The good news is that for any porch that’s under 3 square meters in floor size, planning isn’t required. The rule used to be that it couldn’t project more than a metre from the front of the house – that may have changed but always check with your preferred installer.

Converting your loft into a usable everyday family room also doesn’t require planning permission. This includes fitting Velux windows, although check with your conversion company as these may have to face away from the street facing side of your home.

If you need a little more room and have been thinking about an extension, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that a single storey extension doesn’t require planning permission if you’re extending up to 15% (70 cubic metres) or less of your home’s original floor space. This doesn’t include previous extensions. You can’t build higher than 4 metres (for a pitched roof) or 3 metres (for a flat roof) and the extension shouldn’t ‘move’ your home closer to a road.

You can also build on top of an existing garage as long as it doesn’t go any higher than your existing roof, and obeys the same boundary restrictions.

Dreaming of new windows and doors? They don’t need planning permission either, including turning existing windows into bay or bow windows. If you’re after a conservatory, then the rules are usually the same for a single storey extension, particularly regarding nearness to surrounding boundaries. Again, your installer will be able to advise you further.

So, there’s lots of improvements you can get straight on with, although it should be noted that if you live in a listed building or a conservation area etc, then there may well be a few ‘hoops to jump through’ in order to get permission to carry out any of the improvements we’ve mentioned above as well as a few we haven’t. And because there’s no guarantee that permission will be forthcoming, you should never engage a contractor or start work before obtaining permission.

You’ve heard the story of the Farmer who applied for permission to build a home on the site of a static caravan and who was refused permission? He surrounded the caravan with bales of straw and secretly demolished the caravan and built the house in its place. Much later, he removed the bales of straw.

It was only when he was overheard bragging about his achievement by a local planning officer that he was ‘found out’ and ordered to knock down the bungalow.

photo credit: gareth davies

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