In the UK, there's a rising trend among homeowners to convert underutilised or unoccupied garages into practical spaces for their families. This is a relatively swift and affordable option for augmenting living spaces as compared to a full-blown house extension, primarily because it eliminates the need for laying new foundations or erecting walls.
Additionally, since most garages are already equipped with electricity, this further simplifies the process.
Garage conversions not only offer the advantage of additional space but can significantly enhance the value of your property. These conversions can range from creating an extra bedroom, home office or gym to installing a practical storage unit. Nevertheless, before you embark on this endeavour, it's vital to understand whether you need planning permission for the project.
The process of planning permission can be tedious, but it’s worth noting that many building projects are covered by Permitted Development (PD) rights. These rights indicate that planning permission isn't mandatory for certain kinds of work.
To navigate through the intricacies of PD rights when it comes to garage conversions, we've collated information from our experts in the field.
A critical determinant in this regard is whether the work will be strictly internal or not.
As a rule of thumb, if the conversion is completely confined within the existing garage structure, you're unlikely to need planning permission. Generally, if the work is internal, employs similar building materials to the existing home, and doesn't enlarge the building, planning permission isn't typically required.
Smaller projects, such as transforming your garage into a utility room, home gym, or home office, usually don't necessitate planning permission. However, every rule has exceptions, and there are specific guidelines to follow when undertaking work under PD rights.
Types of conversions
In certain scenarios, planning permission becomes mandatory for garage conversions. Some of these scenarios include:
- Change of use: Converting your garage into a liveable space, such as an additional bedroom or installing a bathroom, may require planning permission. The same applies if you intend to convert a detached garage, even if no external changes are planned, as it's not considered internal work.
- Increasing the size of the garage: Should you plan to add a second story to your garage, thereby doubling the available floor space, planning permission is essential. Thomas Goodman at Myjobquote.co.uk explains, "To remain within PD rights, the garage must be single-storey with a maximum eaves height of 2.5m and maximum overall height of 4m for a pitched roof, 3m for other roofs, or 2.5m if within 2m of the property boundary." Any external additions to the garage will require planning permission.
- Adding windows: Installing windows on the sides or rear of the garage may not fall under PD rights. Fire safety and privacy considerations are key reasons for this. If your garage doesn't open into an internal hallway, installing windows may be necessary for meeting Building Regulations and providing an escape route in case of fire.
Even if planning permission isn't required, obtaining a lawful development certificate can be a prudent move. This document demonstrates to your local authority and potential future buyers that your conversion was completed legally, providing a safeguard against future changes in planning policies.
Consult the planners
If you're unsure about the requirement for planning permission for your garage conversion, it's advisable to consult your local council. This is particularly pertinent if your property is located in a conservation area, a national park, an area of outstanding natural beauty or is a listed building. In such cases, even minor changes may necessitate planning permission.
Certain houses, particularly those in housing estates, may have clauses prohibiting the use of garages for anything other than parking. This is usually due to concerns about street parking shortages or traffic congestion. In these cases, PD rights would not cover the conversion.
Even when planning permission isn't required, it's crucial to adhere to all applicable building regulations to maintain the structural integrity of the building and ensure suitable provisions for ventilation, fire safety, and insulation.
The Government's Permitted Development Rights for Householders: Technical Guidance provides a comprehensive overview of what is and isn't covered by PD rights. Though the document is fairly detailed, it's worth reviewing if you're considering a garage conversion. Please note that PD rights can vary slightly across different regions of the UK. Further information for residents in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland can be found on their respective regional government websites.
In conclusion, while a garage conversion can significantly enhance your living space and property value, understanding the rules and regulations that govern such conversions is vital. When in doubt, it's always wise to consult with professionals or your local council to ensure that your garage conversion complies with all the necessary regulations.
Read our Strategy for Remodeling your home.