25 July 2017

Do you need planning permission?

Planning permission laws have been relaxed significantly in recent years to make it easier for people to improve their homes.

However, the spate of changes has left many people confused about what exactly they need planning permission for. We take a closer look at the jobs you need permission for, and the ones you don’t.

When you need planning permission

When it comes to planning permission, it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry, so check with your Local Planning Authority if you want to:

  • build something new

  • make a major change to a building, e.g. build an extension

  • change the use of a building.

You can look up your local planning authority online:

However, you may find that you don’t have to actually go through with a planning permission application, as you are able to carry out a number of home improvements under permitted development rights.

What is permitted development?

Permitted development rights allow homeowners to make certain changes without the need for a planning application. They were first introduced in 1995 but have been amended many times, giving people more freedom to make changes to their homes. For example, under current rules, larger single storey extensions don’t always require planning permission and are instead subject to a neighbourhood consultation scheme.

However, permitted development rules do vary slightly between counties in the UK and a number of areas including conservation areas, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are excluded, so you’ll need to run any plans by your Local Planning Authority before you start work. 

It’s worth noting that many permitted development rights do not apply to flats.

Permitted development or planning permission

Not sure whether the changes you want to make require planning permission or are allowed under permitted development? We take a look at some popular home improvement projects and what category they fall into.

Creating an open plan kitchen/diner

Knocking down an existing wall to create an open plan living space doesn’t require planning permission, as long as you aren’t increasing the overall footprint of the property. You will need to follow Building Regulations for any structural changes or electric work.

Fitting new windows and doors

If you are planning to fit new windows and doors in existing openings in a house you don’t normally need planning permission, unless the building is listed. If you want to create a new opening, you can normally do so without planning permission as long as upper floor windows on a side elevation are glazed with obscured glass and fixed in a non-opening frame.

If you are thinking of adding a bay window to your property, it could be counted as an extension. If the new bay will project closer to an adjoining road than the nearest part of the house, planning permission would be required.

Converting a garage into a room

Converting a garage into a useable room can in most cases be done without planning permission – as long as all the work is internal and doesn’t increase the building’s square footage. However, permitted rights have been removed from some properties when it comes to garage conversions, so it’s always worth checking with your local planning authority, especially if you live in a new housing development or conservation area.

Building a single storey extension

Whether you’ll need planning permission will depend on the size of your extension. For example, in England, to be built without planning permission, extensions need to be lower than 4 metres high and shouldn’t extend more than 3 metres to the rear of the house if attached or 4 metres if detached. The extension also shouldn’t exceed 50% of the total area of land around the original house.

Dividing a house into multiple dwellings

If you want to subdivide an existing property into multiple units, you must have planning permission in place first.

Converting a loft

Converting a loft into a room doesn’t normally require planning permission, although as with an extension, it depends on the size of the room you are creating, among other factors.

If you are planning to make some home improvements, you should check whether you need planning permission or whether the work will be covered by permitted development by contacting your local planning authority.

Applying for planning permission

Once you’ve established you need planning permission to make your improvements, it’s a relatively straightforward process. The quickest and easiest way to apply is online, via the Planning Portal website, which allows you to submit applications to any local authority in England and Wales or via eplanning in Scotland and Planning NI in Northern Ireland.

If you’d prefer, you can print out the forms and submit them to your local planning authority by post.

In most cases, you should submit a location plan and a site plan with your application. Invalid plans are the most common reason for planning permission applications being rejected, according to Planning Portal, so it might be best to get some professional help.

There is a fee for most planning permission applications. Work out how much you need to pay using Planning Portal’s handy calculator.

Waiting game

In most cases planning applications are decided within 8 weeks, however, they may take longer in large or complex cases. It’s important to wait until your planning permission comes through before starting any work. If not, you could be served with an enforcement notice and have to undo any changes you have made.

Looking to borrow money to make home improvements?

If you already have a Nationwide mortgage and are looking to borrow more, we have a range of deals exclusively for you. We offer our best rates to existing mortgage customers, which means you pay a lower rate during the deal period than a new mortgage customer on the same product.

See how Nationwide could help you

Think carefully before securing other debts against your home. Your mortgage is secured on your home. If you don’t keep up your mortgage repayments, you could lose your home.

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