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What do you need planning permission for?

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Making changes to your home can be exciting. Moving or remodelling a bathroom, creating an extra room with an extension, or giving the garden a makeover with new decking and a summer house for example – there are lots of possibilities.

Before making any big changes, it’s important to find out whether you need to apply for planning permission. Planning permission is a process you need to go through for certain home improvements and involves asking the local council if you’re able to make the changes. They will check if your plans are suitable and won’t cause any problems, and they will also ask your neighbours for their opinion. If you own a listed building and are looking to extend or alter you will also need to obtain listed building consent. Only once permission has been granted can you begin the identified work.

Once any modifications have been made to your home, you must notify your insurance provider too, as the value of your property may have changed and could impact your annual premium and the amount of cover you have. In some cases, not providing this information could invalidate your policy.

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When do you need planning permission?

Below, you can find the changes and renovations you do and don’t need planning permission for. Where planning permission isn’t required, this is known as ‘permitted development’, a term you’ll find used quite a lot below.

The information in this article is correct as of September 2021 for planning permission in England. The regulations may differ if you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Always check with your local council if you’re unsure about whether you do or don’t need planning permission.

Do you need planning permission for an extension?

Whether you need planning permission for an extension mainly depends on the size of the extension, where it will sit in relation to boundaries and the materials that will be used.

You must apply for planning permission for an extension if:

  • Extensions, including any previous extensions, and other buildings will cover more than 50% of the total area of land around the original house
  • The extension will be closer than two metres to a boundary and the eaves height will be more than three metres
  • The roof pitch and extension materials will differ significantly from the original house
  • Extensions of more than one storey must not extend beyond the rear wall of the “original house” by more than three metres or be within seven metres of any boundary opposite the rear wall of the house
  • A single-storey rear extension will be more than four metres from the original house for detached houses or three metres for any other type of house
  • A side extension will be wider than half the original house or be wider than four metres
  • The eaves and ridge height will be higher than the existing house.

These regulations may differ if your house is built on designated land – this is land that sits on or within a conservation area, a place of outstanding natural beauty, a World Heritage site or a National Park – so do check the exact rules with your local council before assuming that you do or don’t need planning permission.

Do you need planning permission for a conservatory?

The same rules apply to a conservatory as above. You will also need planning permission for a conservatory if:

  • You live on designated land and the conservatory will be built on the side of the property
  • You live on designated land and the conservatory will be cladded with stone, pebble dash, timber, plastic, tiles, artificial stone or render
  • A side conservatory will be taller than four metres, or taller than three metres when closer than two metres to a boundary.

When any of these things aren’t the case, as well as the bullet points under the extensions section, the conservatory will be considered permitted development and you won’t need to apply for permission.

Do you need planning permission for a loft extension?

You will need planning permission for a loft extension in England if:

  • The new roof will add more than 40m3 to a terraced house or 50m3 to a detached or semi-detached house. This also includes previous roof extensions
  • The loft extension goes beyond the existing roof slope or is higher than the current roof
  • There will be raised platforms, verandas or balconies
  • There will be alterations or replacements to the chimney, flue or soil pipe
  • The materials used aren’t a close match to those used on the original property.

The rules around loft conversions and extensions can be confusing, so do visit the Planning Portal website for all the information. The Planning Portal was established by the UK Government in 2002 and is the home of planning and building regulations information and the national planning application service for England and Wales.

It’s worth noting that a loft conversion is different to that of a loft extension, and so if you’re not altering the size of the loft, you may not need planning permission. You might, however, require a building inspection upon the completion of work to ensure it adheres to Building Regulations and is signed off.

Do you need planning permission for a porch?

The planning permission rules for porches are a little simpler than extensions and conservatories.

You will need planning permission for a porch in England if:

  • It will have a ground area of more than three square metres
  • It will be higher than three metres above ground level or less than two metres from a boundary (including another house, a public road, a public footpath and a bridleway).

Do you need planning permission for a shed?

A shed is considered an outbuilding, which, according to Planning Portal, also includes garages, greenhouses, playhouses, saunas, summer houses, kennels and even swimming pools. This means, for all of these structures, the planning regulations are the same.

An outbuilding, such as a shed, would need planning permission if:

  • It will have an eaves height of more than 2.5 metres, and a total height of more than four metres with a dual-pitched roof or three metres for any other type of roof
  • It will be taller than 2.5 metres and closer than two metres from a boundary
  • It will have a veranda, balcony or raised platform
  • More than half the land of the original house will have other buildings on
  • The property is a listed building
  • You live on designated land and the outbuilding will be located on the side of the property or will be nearer than 20 metres to the property and will cover more than 10 square metres of land.

Many standard sheds won’t fall into these categories, and so your shed should generally be considered permitted development. Before installing, you should check that the height will fall within the above limits.

Do you need planning permission for a summer house?

A summer house counts as an outbuilding, which means the same rules apply as they do for a shed above.

Do you need planning permission for a pergola?

Pergolas also count as outbuildings, and so the same rules also apply as above for sheds.

Do you need planning permission to convert a garage?

Planning permission is not usually required, providing the work is internal and does not involve enlarging the building.
If your intention is to convert a garage into a separate house (regardless of who will occupy it), then planning permission may be required no matter what work is involved. We advise that you discuss such proposals with your  to ensure that any work you do is lawful and correctly permissioned.

Do you need planning permission for decking?

You may need planning permission for decking and other raised platforms if the total height will be more than 30cm above the ground and if their total area covers more than 50% of the garden area, together with extensions and outbuildings.

Do you need planning permission for solar panels?

Solar panels are usually considered permitted development and so it’s very rare that you will need to apply for planning permission prior to installation. If you’re unsure or believe your circumstances differ to those of a regular property, you should contact your local council and discuss your situation and requirements.

Some of the planning elements are very specific, especially when it comes to large changes to your home, such as extensions, conservatories and outbuildings. If in doubt, you should always confirm with your local council the changes you want to make, and they will advise whether they fall under permitted development or not.

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