WITH the cost of living rising, and mortgages increasingly expensive, you might be thinking about improving your home rather than moving to a new one.
But there are some things to think about to make sure that you’re on the right side of planning rules and regulations while you do it.
Some years ago the government introduced permitted development rights (PDR) which enable homeowners to make certain changes to their home without planning permission.
And recently, there were reports that Simon Clarke, the levelling-up secretary, wanted to expand the rules so people could more easily convert other buildings, such as commercial and farm properties, into homes.
Ali Uddin, who works at planning consultant Planning Pros, said most people run into difficulty with making changes to their homes because of one general mistake: not understanding the current limits of these rules.
If you’re careful, he explained, it is possible to make quite a lot of changes without the need to get planning permission.
But falling foul of the rules could land you in hot water.
“I’ve heard cases where people have spent £60,000 on work thinking it falls under permitted development rights and actually it needs planning permission,” Ali said.
“So they have paid for something that is unauthorised, and potentially could be illegal.”
If this is the case, you could face enforcement action from the council, which ultimately, if you refuse to comply, could land you in court.
Even if it doesn’t get that far, you could be made to apply to planning permission retrospectively, or in extreme cases, made to reverse any changes you have made.
If in doubt, you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) before any work starts.
It is not compulsory to have an LDC but there may be times when you need one to confirm that the use, operation or activity named in it is lawful for planning purposes.
“Just getting that certificate from the outset could save you a lot of bother,” Ali said.
You can also check any plans with your local council, which you can find here.
And the government has lots of general planning information on its website.
It is always better to check before you start any work.
Here are Ali’s top issues to look out for:
Wrong size extension
Permitted development rights allow you to add a single-storey extension at the back of your home without the need for planning permission as long as it isn’t bigger than a particular size.
These extensions must not extend beyond the back wall of the original house by more than four metres if it’s a detached house, or more than three metres for any other house.
Also the maximum height of a single-storey rear extension should be four metres.
Slightly different rules apply if the extension is at the side of the house.
In this case, it can have a maximum height of four metres and its width must not be greater than half the width of the original house.
“You can avoid a lot of problems if you do your research on the limits of these sort of changes,” Ali said.
Converting an outbuilding
“Outbuildings are considered to be permitted development provided all the conditions are met,” explained Ali.
For example, if it’s within two metres of the boundary, any changes are limited to 2.5 metres in height.
It is further away that that, it can be up to four metres.
The thing you have to watch out for is what you use the newly converted building for, Ali said.
“In terms of its use, it has to be incidental to main dwelling house and can’t be an independent residential unit which is rented out, for example,” he explained.
This means you could turn it into an extra bedroom or a home office, for example, as long as it’s for your use.
Renting out part of your house also has certain planning limitations.
For example, you can’t convert an existing outbuilding such as a garage, shed or annex into a holiday let or rented home without planning permission because you will need to apply to change the use of the building.
If you don’t, you will face action from planning authorities.
“If the council finds out they could take further action and enforcement, so before making any changes and shooting yourself in the foot, make sure you speak to a good planning consultant who can advise you as to what you can do,” Ali said.
Most of the time you can convert your garage to a study, playroom or gym, for example, under permitted development rights, as long as the work you’re carrying out is internal, and you’re not trying to enlarge the existing structure.
But confusingly, sometimes permitted development rights have been removed from some properties with regard to garage conversions.
So you should always contact your local planning authority before going ahead, particularly if you live on a new housing development or in a conservation area.
“Sometimes there might also be a historic condition relating to the property which says you can’t convert the garage,” Ali said.
“You can check whether this is the case with your local council.”
Neighbours on side
You are free to make more minor changes to your home, such as replacing or adding windows and doors, without having to apply to the council.
But, Ali said, this isn’t the case if the changes will impact those living around you.
“Where it has an impact on your neighbours, and this is potentially true for windows on the first floor, then it’s subject to conditions,” he said.
This is because a new window might overlook a bedroom in a neighbouring house or cause a noise issue.
“But you can get round this by making really minor changes, like making a window non-opening, for example,” Ali said.
Again, it is worth getting expert advice if you are unsure.
Balcony and patio issues
Balconies and verandas are not permitted development and so if you want to add one to your home, you will need to get planning permission.
However, raised platforms such as decking are, as long as they are no higher than three metres in height.
“Patios are limited to 30 centimetres in height,” Ali said.
“Sometimes you get homeowner who wants to add a patio up to one metre or even two metres off the ground, and they haven’t really understood the nuances of the rules.”
This wouldn’t be allowed, he explained, and would result in your local council forcing you to make changes.
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