Did you know that certain building tasks don't need planning permission, thanks to permitted development rights? Our team has put together 23 home upgrades that you can complete without requiring formal consent.
If you're considering a revamp of an existing structure, you might be relieved to learn that you can execute several significant changes without navigating the potentially challenging planning approval process.
The framework of permitted development (PD) allows you to undertake a wide array of home modifications, from extensions to the installation of solar panels or other renewable technologies.
The essence of PD rights is that the government has provided a general approval for a range of tasks, provided they comply with specific standards and the local authority verifies that your proposal conforms to these criteria. This aspect of planning regulation is complex, encompassing numerous development classes, each with its individual, detailed rules.
We will mainly focus on the English PD scheme in this article, but it's worth noting that Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland each have their own variants.
Although they all adhere to the same fundamental principles, each has slight variances, so it's advisable to consult the guidance for your region on the appropriate government website.
Redesigning rooms is a straightforward and rapid way to refresh a space, and you don't require permission for internal alterations such as moving walls, changing floor levels, remodeling a kitchen, or designing a new bathroom.
However, this is only applicable to a fully constructed and inhabited house, not a new build or conversion in progress, where the approved plans need to be adhered to. Also, keep in mind that if your home is a listed building, you may need listed building consent.
Under PD rights, you can construct single-storey expansions to the rear and sides of your house. Generally, the stipulations for rear extensions are that you can extend 4m from the original property for detached homes, and 3m for others.
In England, larger variants up to 8m and 6m respectively are currently permissible, subject to a notification process. Side additions can be up to half the width of the original structure. Restrictions apply to the ridge height (4m) and the proportion of garden space you can cover (no more than 50%) to qualify for PD.
Closeness to plot boundaries can also affect your plans, and the materials used should match the existing house as closely as possible.
Construct a Conservatory
Without Seeking Planning Permission For planning permission considerations, these glass-enclosed spaces are considered as extensions. However, the stipulation to use matching materials doesn't apply in their case. To qualify under the permitted development rights, your conservatory should be attached to the original house, not to a later extension.
Create a Multi-Storey Addition
Building two-storey rear extensions falls under permitted development provided they don't extend more than 3m out and they are positioned less than 7m from the rear boundary. If the extension's side is within 2m of the side boundary, then the eaves can't exceed a height of 3m.
Amend, Substitute, or Install New Windows
No consent is required for these modifications, provided that the appearance of the house doesn't undergo a substantial change as a result (some modifications are allowed). You can even expand existing windows under PD rights - but bear in mind that bay windows are considered extensions. Special regulations, intended to safeguard neighbors' privacy, apply to side windows; these should be installed with obscured glazing. It's not unusual to find restrictions in previous planning permissions that prohibit alterations to windows in houses and conversions, so always ensure to check this before you begin.
Incorporate a Loft Conversion
Converting an attic into a usable area can be an economical way to gain additional space. As this type of project generally relies on internal work, planning permission is typically not required.
You can increase available space with features like dormer windows or other modifications, such as transforming a hipped roof into a gable – but with the condition that the modifications don't exceed the existing slope on the front elevation.
Further Reading: Comprehensive Guide to Loft Conversion Projects
Modify Your Roof
There's no need for official consent to alter the roof finish, including tasks like repairing parts of the covering or replacing it with the same or a different material. Any modifications must not project more than 150mm from the existing plane, which leaves just enough space to add a layer of external insulation, should you choose to go this route for a loft conversion. More significant changes to the roof shape have been discussed earlier.
Set Up Rooflights or Roof Windows
Installing roof windows can be an excellent way to bring in natural light from above. Rooflights generally qualify as permitted development, but they must not protrude more than 150mm from the roof plane.
Consider a single-storey extension constructed with structural insulated panels (SIPs) for optimal efficiency, incorporating a large rooflight across the ceiling to brighten up the home's enchanting stone wall and maximize light penetration.
Attach a Porch to Your Home
Adding a small porch up to 3m high and 3m2 in floor area (measured externally) to any external door of your home can provide a fresh look. The porch must be at least 2m away from any boundary abutting a highway.
Refurbish Your Home’s External Cladding
You're permitted to paint, mend, or replace your house's external cladding, but the new finish should largely resemble the original in its look.
Strong limitations exist to safeguard designated zones. Therefore, in conservation areas, national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs), and the Broads, you will need to apply for planning permission to clad in stone, artificial stone, pebbledash, render, timber, plastic, or tiles.
Enhance Your Insulation
Fitting insulation is regarded as internal work that doesn't require permission, unless a layer of thermal protection is being applied to the building's exterior that would alter its appearance. If you're incorporating it as part of external cladding, such as insulated render, it will still be considered PD unless it heightens the building or moves the front wall closer to the highway.
Install Solar Panels
In line with the government's effort to cut down carbon emissions, homeowners are now allowed to mount solar thermal or photovoltaic (PV) panels on roofs or walls, provided the units don't extend more than 200mm beyond the roof plane and are installed below the roof's highest part. The general guideline is that these renewable energy sources should be positioned to minimize their visual impact on the residence and the surroundings. There are specific restrictions for conservation areas, world heritage sites, and listed buildings. Panels can also be installed on outbuildings or in your garden, but strict size constraints apply to the latter.
Set Up a Heat Pump
You're permitted to install a ground or water source heat pump in your garden under permitted development rights. The only potential hitch could be local regulations for listed buildings and conservation areas. Strict size and location limits apply to air source versions, and only your first installation qualifies under PD rights. Further Reading: Why Opt for a Heat Pump?
Excavate a Basement
At present, creating an underground living space is categorized as an extension. However, in some urban areas – particularly those where large basements are prevalent – councils are withdrawing permitted development rights through Article 4 Directions.
The status of these additions is currently under review and there have been suggestions to create a special permitted development category to cover them, though it has not yet been implemented. Further Reading: Designing Basement Extensions
Stabilize a House with Underpinning
This type of foundation maintenance, typically intended to stabilize a structure, usually doesn't necessitate planning permission. However, a formal application might be required when underpinning a listed building or a property in a designated area.
Build an Outbuilding or Garden Office
The construction of new single-storey structures – including summerhouses, garages, and sheds – is permitted under PD rights, provided their use is secondary to that of the main dwelling (for instance, a gym rather than an additional bedroom). The structure must be located behind the house's principal elevation, and it cannot cover more than 50% of the garden. Height restrictions also apply.
For listed properties, there are no PD rights for outbuildings in the grounds. In AONBs, conservation areas, and national parks, they must not exceed 10m2 if they are situated more than 20m from the house – among other constraints.
Transform a Garage
Usually, you don't need planning permission to transform a garage into a residential space, provided the work is solely internal and doesn't involve any enlargement of the building, including the addition of dormers in the roof. It's worth confirming with your local authority that the right to convert has not been revoked. This is particularly frequent with new developments and conservation areas. Consider this beautiful scheme by Cue and Co London, which successfully converted a garage, providing the home with a bright and spacious kitchen. Further Reading: Novice's Guide to Garage Conversions
Construct a Swimming Pool
Swimming pools fall under the same category as outbuildings, so if you're planning on building one in a small garden, verify whether it will remain within the 50% limit for ground coverage by buildings. This luxurious retractable polycarbonate model by Starlight Pools allows for year-round swimming and offers UV protection.
Install New Decking
An external deck can be laid provided it isn’t over 300mm above ground level. It’s subject to the same provisos about garden coverage (so counts towards the 50% threshold) and floorplan size in protected areas as apply to outbuildings.
Gates, Fencing & Walls
You can build new boundary treatments provided they fall within allotted height restrictions. Those fronting a highway must be a maximum of 1m tall, while a 2m threshold applies elsewhere. This right does not extend to listed buildings.
Upgrade Your Patios & Driveways
Laying or replacing hardstanding is considered permitted development across most parts of a property’s grounds. However, if you’re planning to treat more than 5m2 of front garden you must either use a porous surface, such as gravel or permeable block paving. Alternatively, you should direct the rainwater to a lawn or flower bed where it can drain naturally.
Renew Your Home’s Landscaping
While most garden work is clearly permitted, including major changes such as planting hedges, there are a number of restrictions. The most significant is that many trees are protected by preservation orders, so you may need the council’s consent to prune or fell them.
Change the Building’s Use
PD allows you to convert a range of agricultural and commercial buildings – such as shops, offices and storage units – to domestic use.
For example, in England only you can change the use of up to three farm buildings on the same tranche of land, up to a maximum combined footprint of 405m2.
The rules around these projects are complex and, while full planning may not be required, separate prior approval applications do need to be made to the overseeing council.