31 January 2018

Do I need to get planning permission for my renovation?

There may come a time when your home no longer meets your needs. Perhaps you have a growing family and need a bit more space, or want to start a business from home and need somewhere to do the work.

The first option of course is to move to a bigger property, but that is a significant upheaval. Many of us in this situation instead look to adapt our existing home to our changing requirements rather than try to find a new one.

But it's important to bear in mind that you might need planning permission for some renovation projects before you can carry them out.

Failing to get the right approval in place before you begin can be a stressful and costly mistake, so how do you work out if your home renovation requires permission? And how do you go about getting the thumbs up for your plans?

When do I need planning permission?

Planning permission is usually required if you're building something new, or making a significant change to your building. So building an annex, for example, may require permission from your local council before you can go ahead.

Similarly, you'll need to get planning permission if you are changing the use of a property, such as converting it from commercial use into a residential property.

However, many home improvements are classed as being a permitted development, and so do not require permission.

The government's  (This link will open in a new window)Planning Portal is a good place to start, as it contains a host of interactive guides that you can use to determine whether your project will need planning permission.

Permitted development

In the words of the government, permitted development rights “allow householders to improve and extend their homes without the need to apply for planning permission where that would be out of proportion with the impact of works carried out”.

For example, an extension is classed as a permitted development so long as it meets certain criteria, such as covering no more than half the area of land around the 'original house', and being no higher than the highest part of the existing roof.

Similarly, you can build a garage or outhouse on your property, so long as it is deemed to be of a reasonable size.

Other examples of permitted development projects include fitting rooflights, loft conversions and even sticking in a swimming pool, in each case provided specific criteria is met.

Inevitably, there are exceptions. For example, while permitted development rights apply to houses, they do not apply to flats or maisonettes.

In addition, if you live in a 'designated area' then you may need to apply for planning permission for certain types of work which would not require an application in other areas.

These designated areas include:


  • Conservation areas
  • National parks
  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • World Heritage Sites

What's more, separate permitted development rights apply to commercial properties than residential dwellings, while there are different requirements in place for any development work you might like to carry out on a listed building.

It's worth bearing in mind that while these projects may not require planning permission, you'll need to comply with certain building regulations.

Getting permission in place

Once you have an idea of the project you want to carry out, it's important to speak to your local planning authority to determine whether you'll need permission. If the authority says that you do, then it's also a good idea to organise a chat with a local planning officer to get their advice on how to proceed.

To ensure that you comply with the various regulations, you may want to bring in an architect or a planning consultant to help with your project. This will be an additional cost to bear in mind when budgeting, but equally it can save a lot of heartache – and money – down the line if you fail to follow the existing rules.

You can apply for permission online via the government's  (This link will open in a new window)Planning Portal.

What does it cost?

Applying for planning permission usually comes with a fee attached, though these fees can vary depending on which country your property is located in and what work you're hoping to carry out.

For example, the cost of applying for planning permission for an extension in England is currently £172, whereas in Wales it costs £190.

What happens if I don't get permission?

If you are told that you need planning permission for your planned work, and proceed anyway without it, then you may be issued with an enforcement notice. This will require you to undo all of the changes you have made.

You can try to appeal against an enforcement notice, but if that fails and you still do not comply you may be prosecuted.

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About the author

John Fitzsimons

John Fitzsimons is an award-winning financial journalist who has written for publications including the Sunday Times, The Mirror, Forbes, Moneywise and loveMONEY.

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