Can you extend your home without planning permission?

An age-old question for homeowners in need of more space is “Should we move to a bigger house, or should we extend our current home?” Given the current cost of living crisis and steadily increasing inflation and interest rates, the smart money may be to stay put rather than move to a bigger property and incur a more expensive mortgage and the higher costs of heating and running a larger home, let alone the costs of moving which are said to be at least £10,000 on average in 2022.

But if you want to extend your current home, how do you go about it and can you do so without planning permission?

There has been a lot of talk about planning permission in the news of late thanks to proposed reforms of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill within the latest Queen’s speech on 10 May 2022.

In essence, the Government wants to move forward on its previous commitment to introduce legislation to modernise the current planning system which dates back to 1947. Suggestions have included ‘street votes’ – which would give neighbour’s the ability to vote on proposed extensions in their street – and scrapping the Section 106 legal agreement between a person seeking planning permission and their local planning authority to alleviate the impact of the development on the local community. Whilst we await further details on the approach which will be taken to make changes to the planning system, we consider the current requirements for extending your home and where and when you can do so without needing planning permission.

Where you do need planning permission for an extension, you would need to contact your local planning authority. Using an architect, builder and/or planning consultant may also be helpful to make the process of applying for and successfully receiving planning permission as smooth as possible.

However, as of 2015, English homeowners have been able to extend their homes without planning permission via permitted development rights. Whilst this is great news if your plans for your home are included in the criteria for permitted development rights, there are a number of caveats which mean you should always check that your property and planned extension are eligible for permitted development rights before you start lining up tradespeople and purchasing those bricks and roof tiles.

To work out if this is the case, the five key criteria to consider are as follows.

  • Will the extension take up more that 50% of the land around the existing property?
  • Will the extension sit less than 2 metres from your boundary line, and will it be more than 3 metres tall?
  • Will the extension be taller than your existing roof and the existing eaves?
  • Will you be using materials to build the extension that differ dramatically to the material used for your existing dwelling?
  • Will any of the following features be included in the extension? 
    • Balcony
    • Chimney, flue or vent pipe
    • Veranda
    • Raised platform
    • A TV aerial or satellite dish

If you can answer no in all cases then you should be able to complete your extension without needing planning permission, although it always pays to check with your local planning authority first. Particularly if you plan to build a multiple storey extension or you are extending to the side of your property. You should also double-check that your property is not located within an area of special interest or on protected land such as an area of outstanding natural beauty before you proceed with an extension, as this will also play a big part in the type of extension you could create and whether or not planning permission is required. You should have been made aware of this when you bought the property, as this is something that would have come to light during local searches. You can check with the local council and/or seek legal advice if necessary. Speak to the conveyancer who helped you purchase the property if you are unsure. Even if you don’t need planning permission for your new extension, it is also a good idea out of courtesy (and in the interests of keeping the peace!) to let your neighbours know that you will be having work done, what it will involve and how long (approximately) this is due to last before you break ground. Also try to keep any particularly noisy work restricted to sociable hours. The general rule of thumb for this is between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 1pm on a Saturday and no non-emergency building work on a Sunday. Your neighbours can report you for noise nuisance if you do not comply and this can mean a fine or prosecution.

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