Planning rules

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 gathered some key facts about what building projects do and don’t need planning permission and how to go about getting planning permission if you need it. 

If you want to build something new or make a major change to your home 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 which projects need  planning permission before you start. 

Here are some frequently asked questions about permitted development and the rules you have to operate under. 

Not all changes or improvements to your home need permission from the planning  department. There are many that you can carry out with implied consent, known as  Permitted Development. It is well worth being aware of these rights, and recent  changes to the rules, if you want to make any significant home improvements. It could  save you time and money! 

What is Permitted Development?

Permitted Development (PD) grants rights to enable homeowners to undertake certain types of work without the need to apply for planning permission. There are many innovative opportunities whereby PD rights can bring significant benefits to anyone who wants to undertake a project to improve their existing home or is looking to maximise the potential of a new investment.

To take advantage of PD you need to fully understand what is involved and the criteria — as well as stay up to date with all the latest changes.

Do I Have Permitted Development Rights?

Most likely yes, but there are a few things to bear in mind. Any space added by past owners since 1948 counts towards your Permitted Development allocation.

If your house is located in a Designated Area, such as a National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Conservation Area then your Permitted Development rights may be restricted or removed under what is known as an Article 4 direction. This is where rights have been removed in the interest of maintaining the character of the local area. This could also be the case if your property is listed.

Alternatively, if you’re planning to self build a replacement dwelling and your proposed new home is bigger than the existing house on site, then your Permitted Development rights are likely to be restricted or even removed on condition of granting planning permission.

Remember than all Permitted Development requirements apply to the dwelling as it was originally built, or as it stood on 1st July 1948.

PD Rights do not apply to flats or maisonettes due to the impact that any alterations could have on neighbouring properties.

Permitted Development and Lawful Development Certificates

In theory, if a proposal constitutes Permitted Development and is fully compliant with  the regulations, no application is required. 

However, if you’re not going down the prior notification process, it is extremely  advisable to apply for a Certificate of Lawful Proposed Use or Development, otherwise  known as a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC), to ensure that your proposal  complies with the regulations and that you will not be faced with difficulties post  construction.

If, once an extension or outbuilding etc. is constructed, the LPA determines that the  proposal does not comply with PD regulations then you may be faced with  enforcement action, which would normally result in a request for a retrospective  application. Should permission be refused there is a real likelihood that any extensions  or associated works would be required to be demolished. As such, confirmation in the  form of the LDC is highly recommended. 

How Big Can an Extension be Under Permitted Development?

Under the rules, the ‘original’ (as it stood in or prior to 1948) rear wall of a detached  home can be extended (subject to the neighbour consultation scheme) by up to 8m in  depth with a single storey extension; this is reduced to 6m if you live in a semi or  terrace. If your proposed new extension will be within 2m of a boundary, then the eaves  height is limited to 3m under Permitted Development. Otherwise, a single storey rear  extensions must be no higher than 4m. 

If you hope to build a two storey extension (no higher than the house), this can project  up to 3m from the original rear wall, so long as it is at least 7m from the rear boundary.  It’s also important to note that no extension can project beyond or be added to what is  deemed to be the front of the house or an elevation which affronts the highway. And  a side extension can not make up more than half your house’s width. 

Furthermore, with the exception of conservatories, new extensions must be built  of materials ‘similar in appearance’ and with the same roof pitch as the main house.  So while Permitted Development rights are beneficial, there’s a lot to consider before  starting work. 

Permitted Development Rules for Extensions

 • You can extend a detached dwelling by 8m to the rear if it’s single storey or  3m if it’s double 

 • Semi-detached and terraced homes can be extended up to 6m to the rear of  the property if single storey

 • There are height restrictions but they boil down to a single storey extension  not being higher than 4m in height to the ridge and the eaves, and ridge  heights of any extension not being higher than the existing property 

 • Two-storey extensions must not be closer than 7m to the rear boundary  

 It must be built in the same or similar material to the existing dwelling

 • Extensions must not go forward of the building line of the original dwelling

 Side extensions must be single-storey, maximum height of 4m and a width no  more than half of the original building 

In Designated Areas side extensions require planning permission and all rear  extensions must be single-storey 

 • An extension must not result in more than half the garden being covered  

 You can only do it once and the original building is either as it was on 1st July  1948 or when it was built. In Northern Ireland it is as it was built or as it was  on 1st October 1973 

Loft Conversions Permitted Development 

If your Loft Conversion falls under your permitted development rights then you will not need to apply for planning consent from your local council. However, the following  restrictions must be observed: 

  1. On designated land, loft conversions will not be a Permitted Development 
  2. To be a Permitted Development any additional roof space created must not exceed  these volume allowances: 

40m3 on terraced or semi-detached houses, 50m3 on detached houses 

  1. Permitted Developments do not include extending proud of the existing roof slope plane on the front elevation if it faces a road. 
  2. Use materials which appear similar to the existing property. 
  3. Your extension cannot be higher than the highest point on the existing roof. 6. Permitted Developments do not include balconies, verandas or raised platforms.
  4. A side window should be obscured and not able to be opened, unless the opening mechanism is situated at least 1.7m above its respective room floor. 
  5. Roof extensions should be set back, as far as reasonably feasible by at least 20cm from the eaves, unless it is a hip or gable roof (measure the 20cm along the plane of the roof). The roof extension should not hang over the wall of the house. 
  6. Your roof or loft project might have an impact on any existing bats. For this kind of work, you will need a survey and possibly a licence to proceed. 

Front Porches & Outbuildings Permitted Development 

Many homeowners need additional space, and we find that a common trait of all of our projects is the need for an extended porch or a new outbuilding. You may be in luck, as these are considered within permitted development rules if the following rules are followed! 

Porch Extensions: 

  1. The total area of the porch must not exceed 3m2 (measured externally). 
  2. No part of the extended porch shall be greater than 3m from the existing ground level. 
  3. No part of the porch should be within 2m of the public highway (including pedestrian walkways). 

Outbuildings: 

  1. No outbuilding should be constructed on land forward of the principal (front)  elevation. 
  2. Outbuildings and garages should be built to a height of no more than 2.5m at the eaves and a maximum of 4m if dual-pitched. If any other roof type is proposed, this should have a maximum height of 3m.
  3. When within 2m of a shared boundary, the maximum height of the outbuilding should be 2.5m. 
  4. No verandas, balconies or raised platforms are considered to be permitted development. Raised platforms will need planning permission if over 30cm height from the existing ground level. 
  5. No more than 50% of the land surrounding the dwelling should be covered by outbuildings. 
  6. No outbuilding can be forward of the original dwelling. In Wales and Northern  Ireland, the same applies unless the resulting building would be more than 20m from the road. 
  7. In Wales and Northern Ireland any outbuildings closer to the house than 5m count as extensions. In Scotland any outbuildings larger than 4m² and closer to the dwelling  than 5m count as extensions 

Additional Alterations Permitted Development 

Other elements of construction that are often considered to be permitted development  (not requiring planning permission) include: 

  1. Solar panels (other than on the front roof slope). 
  2. Replacement of doors/windows. 
  3. Repairs to the property including any walls and the roof. 
  4. Additional skylights/roof windows or dormer windows – subject to the volume increase allowance for your type of building (See loft conversions permitted development). 

It is important to always check if you are in a conservation area or other designated land if you are looking to make these changes, as even though they may seem minor,  you may not have access to permitted development rights if so!

What is the Larger Home Extension Scheme/Prior Approval &  how does this affect my PD rights? 

In 2019, the UK government announced their plan to introduce the ‘Larger Home  Extensions Scheme’, allowing homeowners to extend their property by even more than the previous permitted development guidelines allowed – WITHOUT applying for full planning permission. This decision was made to allow families the freedom to grow without being forced to move house, by extending their home to meet their requirements without having to battle their local planning authority for the right to do so. 

In 2020, the government saw the great potential and effectiveness of the then temporary allowance, and in fact proclaimed that the scheme be extended indefinitely,  realising the huge potential that it had for the benefit of both the people and the economy. 

Nowadays, the larger home extensions scheme is a branch of your permitted development rights, also known as prior approval, which comes with several additional criteria to meet before building your dream extension. Essentially, it is important to note that the normal permitted development rights have remained the same, but homeowners are given the opportunity to apply for prior approval from their neighbours  (not your local council – a common misconception) to extend further. For example, for a terraced or semi-detached house, you could extend up to 6m instead of just 3m, and for a detached house, you could extend up to 8m instead of 4m! 

Permitted Development Technical Guidance 

The UK government has provided technical guidance on permitted development,  which includes detailed information on what changes are allowed and what conditions must be met. This guidance is intended to help homeowners understand their rights and obligations when making changes to their properties. 

In London, permitted development rules are subject to a number of additional restrictions and requirements, due to the city’s unique planning challenges. For 

example, in some parts of London, the government has introduced Article 4 directions,  which remove certain types of permitted development rights in order to preserve the character of the area. 

The technical guidance on permitted development covers a wide range of topics, including  the following: 

Extensions and conservatories: The guidance sets out the maximum dimensions for extensions and conservatories that can be built without planning permission, as well as other requirements such as the materials that can be used. 

Roof alterations: Homeowners are allowed to make certain types of alterations to their roofs without planning permission, such as installing roof lights or skylights. The guidance sets out the specific conditions that must be met. 

Change of use: In some cases, homeowners may be able to change the use of their property without planning permission, such as converting a garage into a living space.  The guidance sets out the specific conditions that must be met. 

Outbuildings: Homeowners are allowed to build certain types of outbuildings without planning permission, such as sheds and summerhouses. The guidance sets out the maximum dimensions and other requirements that must be met. 

Permitted development rights in conservation areas: Homeowners in conservation areas are subject to additional restrictions on permitted development. The guidance sets out the specific conditions that must be met in order to carry out certain types of changes. 

It is important to note that even if a proposed change falls within the permitted development rules, it may still be subject to other regulations, such as building regulations or health and safety requirements. Homeowners are advised to seek professional advice before undertaking any major changes to their properties.

Can I Convert an Existing Building Under Permitted  Development? 

Under Permitted Development, existing buildings – such as offices, barns and other agricultural buildings – can be converted into homes. 

Agricultural Buildings and Barn Conversions 

In March 2013 a new system was introduced to allow the conversion of barns into dwellings. Permission would still be required via the prior approvals process, but it created the potential for more conversion opportunities than before. Read more here. 

Former Office Buildings 

In an attempt to release inner-city land for housing, the next change in Permitted  Development was an announcement in May 2013 to allow offices to be converted to residential. This was set to expire in 2016, but in October 2015 it was declared that these rights would be made permanent. 

Permitted Development for Balconies and Driveways 

  • Balconies, verandas and raised platforms (above 300mm) do not fall under Permitted  Development rights • You will also now need planning permission to construct a drive from non-porous materials such as tarmac. But you can construct a new drive of porous materials, or  non-porous if provision for drainage is provided on the property, under Permitted  Development

Exceptions to Permitted Development Rights 2022 

In many cases, permitted development rights can be a sure way to achieving your extension goals, however, they do not always apply. Common exemptions to the use  of permitted development rights include: 

  1. Properties in a Conservation Area – If your home or business is situated in a  conservation area, this means that your local council has restricted the rights to develop in order to reduce the impacts of development on the protected character of the area. 
  2. Flats or Maisonettes – Permitted development rights do not apply in the cases of extensions/alterations to flats or maisonettes, predominantly due to the need for freeholder consent and the impact on your neighbours of any development. 
  3. Change of use between different use classes  
  4. New Homes – When creating one or more new residential units, permitted development rights do not apply. You will therefore need prior consent from your local council to build a new house or convert a single dwelling into flats. 
  5. Buildings with a specific use outside of residential homes. 
  6. Areas where there may be a blanket planning condition, such as an Article 4  Direction, limiting permitted development rights in any given area.

Changes to Permitted Development Rights in 2019

One of the key changes in the May 2019 regulations is that the new order makes it clear that the regulations make permanent the right to build larger rear single-storey extensions under Class A. This means it is now possible to build the larger extensions subject to the prior approval process without fear of their previously temporary provision expiring.

Types of Permitted Development Rights

Householder PD rights fall into different categories depending on the work being planned. These are:

Class A – Extensions (enlargement, improvement or alteration)

This allows a householder to build a single-storey side extension up to half the width of the existing dwelling; a single-storey rear extension up to 4m in length for a detached dwelling and 3m long for a semi or a terrace house; and, in certain circumstances, 3m two-storey rear extensions.

The changes that took effect on 30 May 2019 now make permanent the decision that larger single-storey rear extensions of up to 8m (6m for semi or terrace) are permissible under Class A — but do require prior notification (see ‘Lawful Development Certificates are key’).

Class B – Additions to the roof

This allows for rear dormers and hip-to-gable extensions as long as the additional volume created does not exceed 50m3 (40m3 for semis and terraced homes).

Class C – Other alterations to the roof

Class D – Porches

Class E – Buildings etc. (outbuildings)

This allows for an outbuilding to be erected within a residential curtilage as long as it is sited behind the principal (often the front) elevation, does not cover more than 50% of the curtilage and is not more than 3m in height (4m for a dual-pitched roof; 2.5m where within 2m of a boundary).

There are also specific regulations relating to Hard Surfaces (Class F), Chimneys & Flues (Class G) and Microwave antennas (Class H).

Is Prior Notification the Same as Permitted Development?

Prior notification is a form of Permitted Development whereby the local planning authority must be notified of the details prior to development taking place. Although prior notification is a form of PD, the process is a lot more involved and the local planning authority (LPA) has a lot more say in comparison with a PD application.

With a PD application, the regulations are explicit and it is normally pretty clear cut as to whether a proposed scheme complied with the regulations or not. However, under a prior notification application, the LPA often has the opportunity to determine whether they consider the proposal to constitute conversion as opposed to rebuilding, whether the materials used are appropriate, whether the proposal would be broadly in line with the objectives of the National Planning Policy Framework, and whether there might be other associated impacts such as contamination, noise, flooding etc.

However, these rules do allow for a number of projects to be completed without planning permission.

For householders, single storey, rear residential extensions can be built up to 8m in depth (6m for a semi or terrace) provided that boundary neighbours are first informed. If no objections are received (or any objections received are not considered to have planning merit) and the LPA is satisfied that there are no significant adverse impacts arising from flooding, highways or contamination, a Lawful Development Certificate is issued.

Prior notification can also be used to change the use of non-residential buildings to residential purposes. It can be used to change buildings from one commercial use to another, too.

Converting Commercial and Agricultural Buildings

A1 (shops), A2 (professional and financial services) and A5 (hot food takeaways) may be converted to residential (up to 150m²). The LPA may consider the design of the associated physical development to ensure it complies with the Local Plan and the potential impact of the loss of the A1/A2 use on the economic health of the town centre.

Agricultural buildings may be converted to residential (up to 450m²), as long as the building is structurally capable of being converted without requiring engineering work and providing access can be achieved. Up to five dwellings may be created up to a maximum floorspace of 465m², of which three may be ‘large’ (>100m²). This change of use is subject to prior approval being sought in respect of:

• transport and highways impacts

  • noise impact
  • contamination risks
  • flooding risks
  • location or siting
  • the design or external appearance of the building

B1 (light industrial) and B8 (storage) buildings may be converted to residential as long as the gross floor space of the existing building does not exceed 500m². Again, the LPA may assess the highways, contamination, flooding and economic impacts and risks associated with the proposal.

Permitted Development and Lawful Development Certificates

In theory, if a proposal constitutes Permitted Development and is fully compliant with the regulations, no application is required.

However, if you’re not going down the prior notification process, it is extremely advisable to apply for a Certificate of Lawful Proposed Use or Development, otherwise known as a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC), to ensure that your proposal complies with the regulations and that you will not be faced with difficulties post construction.

If, once an extension or outbuilding etc. is constructed, the LPA determines that the proposal does not comply with PD regulations then you may be faced with enforcement action, which would normally result in a request for a retrospective application. Should permission be refused there is a real likelihood that any extensions or associated works would be required to be demolished. As such, confirmation in the form of the LDC is highly recommended.

How Big Can an Extension be Under Permitted Development?

  • You can extend a detached dwelling by 8m to the rear if it’s single storey or 3m if it’s double
  • Semi-detached and terraced homes can be extended up to 6m to the rear of the property if single storey
  • There are height restrictions but they boil down to a single storey extension not being higher than 4m in height to the ridge and the eaves, and ridge heights of any extension not being higher than the existing property
  • Two storey extensions must not be closer than 7m to the rear boundary
  • It must be built in the same or similar material to the existing dwelling
  • Extensions must not go forward of the building line of the original dwelling
  • Side extensions must be single storey, maximum height of 4m and a width no more than half of the original building
  • In Designated Areas side extensions require planning permission and all rear extensions must be single storey
  • An extension must not result in more than half the garden being covered
  • You can only do it once and the original building is either as it was on 1st July 1948 or when it was built. In Northern Ireland it is as it was built or as it was on 1st October 1973

Could I Both Extend My Home and Convert My Loft Under Permitted Development?

Yes, you can also convert your loft into a bedroom or extra living space by up to 50m³ in a detached house, or by 40m³ within any other home. Flush rooflights or those which do not project further than 150mm are permitted, but you will need permission to add a dormer window on any roof elevation which faces the highway.

However, you cannot cover more than 50% of the land around your house with extensions (including extensions by previous owners), and you have to include any outbuildings when calculating this coverage. Sheds and other outbuildings count in this calculation.

What Improvements Can I Make Within Permitted Development?

The scope of your Permitted Development rights are varied and cover both internal and external works, but there are strict design criteria that need to be adhered to. If your project falls outside of the set criteria, then it is likely you will need to submit a planning application.

Some home improvements that you can make under Permitted Development include:

  • Building a porch
  • Internal alterations
  • Convert and occupy the loft space
  • Installing microgeneration equipment such as solar panels (apart from wind turbines)
  • Installing satellite dishes and erecting antenna
  • Adding rooflights or dormer windows
  • Extending the back of your home

Are Outbuildings Covered by Permitted Development?

  • You can construct all sorts of outbuildings for the use and enjoyment of the home so long as they do not cover more than 50% of the garden space. In Scotland this is reduced to 30%
  • In Wales and Northern Ireland any outbuildings closer to the house than 5m count as extensions. In Scotland any outbuildings larger than 4m² and closer to the dwelling than 5m count as extensions
  • Outbuildings must be single storey with a maximum ridge height of 4m for a pitched roof or 3m for any other kind of roof. The eaves height must be no more than 2.5 metres
  • If the outbuilding is closer to the boundary than 2m it shall be no higher than 2.5m
  • No outbuilding can be forward of the original dwelling. In Wales and Northern Ireland the same applies unless the resulting building would be more than 20m from the road

Can I Convert an Existing Building Under Permitted Development?

Under Permitted Development, existing buildings – such as offices, barns and other agricultural buildings – can be converted into homes.

Agricultural Buildings and Barn Conversions

In March 2013 a new system was introduced to allow the conversion of barns into dwellings. Permission would still be required via the prior approvals process, but it created potential for more conversion opportunities than before. Read more here.

Former Office Buildings

In an attempt to release inner-city land for housing, the next change in Permitted Development was an announcement in May 2013 to allow offices to be converted to residential. This was set to expire in 2016, but in October 2015 it was declared that these rights would be made permanent.

Permitted Development for Balconies and Driveways

  • Balconies, verandas and raised platforms (above 300mm) do not fall under Permitted Development rights
  • You will also now need planning permission to construct a drive from non-porous materials such as tarmac. But you can construct a new drive of porous materials, or non-porous if provision for drainage is provided on the property, under Permitted Development

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