Do I need planning permission?
Getting planning permission for that dream extension or for essential maintenance can be a nightmare. Planning regulation is complex and many people have fallen into the pitfalls that await the ill-informed. As a starting point, we’ve distilled some key facts about what building projects do and don’t need planning permission …
If you want to build something new or make a major change to your building you will probably need planning permission. If your project needs planning permission and you do the work without getting it, you can be served an enforcement notice ordering you to undo all the changes you have made. So don’t risk it and check before you start.
An addition or extension to your house* is generally considered to be permitted developments. So you won’t need to go through the additional hassle of getting planning permission as long as:
- Your extension is no more than half the area of land around the original house (curtilage). The “original house” is seen as it was in 1948; after this date how it was newly built
- Your extension is not forward of the principal elevation or side elevation onto a highway
- Your extension is not higher than the highest part of the roof
- In the case of single storey extensions, it must not extend beyond the rear wall of the original house by more than three metres if an attached house or by four metres if a detached house – although the Government is consulting on extending this, so watch this space
- The maximum height of your single-storey rear extension is not higher than four metres
- Extensions of more than one storey do not extend beyond the rear wall of the original house by more than three metres
- Side extensions are single storey with maximum height of four metres and width no more than half that of the original house
- Two-storey extensions are no closer than seven metres to rear boundary
- The materials are similar in appearance to the existing house
- Your extension does not include verandas, balconies or raised platforms
- Any upper-floor, side-facing windows are obscure-glazed; any opening is 1.7m above the floor
Conservatories are categorised as the same as any other extension, as set out above.
*Different rules apply to flats and maisonettes.
There are also different planning restrictions for designated areas such as Conservation areas and if your property is listed. So check with your LPA
Garages, sheds and other outbuildings
Outbuildings such as sheds, garages, greenhouses and some other structures are also considered to be permitted development. You can build a garage or outbuilding on your property without planning permission as long as it’s of a reasonable size – no higher than 4 metres. Do bear in mind though that outbuildings cannot take up more than half of the land around the original property. There are as always exceptions where planning permission is necessary so contact your Local Planning Authority or visit the Planning Portal for further details of planning exemptions for outbuildings
Paving over the front garden
As long as the material you are using is porous there is no need for planning permission whatever the size of the new hardstanding. However if the material is impermeable anything over 5 square metres requires planning permission.
Windows and doors
In most cases there is no need for planning permission to repair or replace windows and doors. The major exception is if your property is listed in which case you will have to obtain listed building consent. And don’t forget you will need Building Control approval for windows.
External walls and roof
For minor maintenance works, or improvements such as painting your house or inserting a skylight, you do not need planning permission. As always this is not the case if your building is listed. If you live in a conservation area or an area of outstanding natural beauty, you are required to obtain planning permission if you wish to change the appearance of your home. If you live in a flat and you wish to alter the roof you should consult the local planning authority before you start any work.
Wind turbines and solar panels
Temporary wind turbines do not require planning permission but permanent ones usually do. If you are unsure contact your local authority. Solar panels do not require planning permission unless you live in a listed property.
Fences, gates, and walls
Planning permission is necessary for any fence, gate, or wall:
- Next to a road and over 1 metre high
- Over 2 metres and not next to a road
- If your house is listed
- If it forms a boundary with a listed building
Trees and hedges
- Many trees are protected by tree preservation orders and you will need permission to prune them. You can phone your council to check if any trees on your land are protected.
- Similarly permission is required for work done to any trees in conservation areas. To find out if a tree on your property is protected contact your local council.
- Hedges can be any height but you are responsible for any hedge on your property – it’s your job to stop them becoming a nuisance to your neighbours
Nearly all internal works such as loft conversions, garage conversions, new staircases, bathrooms, kitchens, or rewiring, do not require planning permission. But, do check if you want to do anything to a listed property or you live within a Conservation area.
While this is a helpful starting point the HomeOwners Alliance recommend you contact your local planning authority (LPA) to check whether your project falls within permitted development or whether planning permission is needed. If the latter applies, an informal meeting with your local planning officer before you submit an application is highly recommended. Some local planning authorities charge for this service so it’s a good idea to check first. It is also a question you have to answer in the application form and can assist the LPA in dealing with your application.
You can then make your planning application online
And remember, whether you needed planning permission or not, your building work still needs to comply with building regulations, for your safety, to improve the energy efficiency of your home (and reduce bills) and to ensure you can sell your house in future without any costly problems or delays. Make it clear to whoever carries out your building work that you expect them to ensure their work is compliant with building regulations but be warned: responsibility ultimately lies with the building owner, who may be served a notice to pull down or alter the work if it doesn’t comply with the building regulations. You also need to be aware that if you have a shared party wall with your neighbour, you may require a party wall agreement — read the HomeOwners Alliance guide to Party Wall Agreements.
When you are ready to transform your home, take time to:
Read our free advice guides about working with an architect and doing improvement work on your house, check whether you need a party wall agreement. Then use our Plentific tool to find the right tradesman in your area. If you already have someone in mind, based on recommendation, then please do take the time to double check their credentials using our free service. It’s boring we know but it will give you that extra peace of mind and could save you an awful lot of time and hassle.