Regulations for extensions have been eased – not abolished
We are planning to start a family but in the current economic climate can not afford to move house. It seems to make more sense to try and extend our current property but would like to do this as cheaply and simply as possible. We live in a semidetached house and there are several examples in our road where people have built over their driveways creating an additional bedroom at first floor and a car port. I understand that this requires planning permission but can you tell me what is the extent of the work we can do before we have to start applying for formal planning permission and incurring expensive fees?
Recent changes to planning law have actually made it a lot easier for people to extend their houses. If done correctly it is a great way of creating more space whilst at the same time increasing the value of your property. Unfortunately, there are thousands of examples of poorly conceived extensions that result in making our street unattractive and the houses sometimes difficult to sell. We have all seen similar examples to the one you quote of a double height flat roof extension tagged onto the side of suburban semi.
Do not automatically dismiss employing professionals and going down the planning route if it is required. Generally an architect will be able to suggest ideas that you had not perhaps thought of and assist greatly in the delivery of the project. Assuming you want a relatively modest extension then this may be achievable under what is called your Permitted Development Rights.
These rules were established because it was recognised that it was totally impractical for every bit of domestic development to be dealt with by the Local Planning Authority.
However, there are noticeable exceptions. For example, if you live in a National Park, Conservation Area or a building that is listed for architectural or historical significance then a planning permission will most likely be needed for just about every form of development.
One of the most popular and cost effective ways of increasing your living space is to convert the attic space. Any extension into the loft should not result in part of the roof extending beyond the highest part of the main roof.
Unfortunately the legislation relating to attic windows is slightly more complicated but if you install roof lights to the existing roof and they do not protrude significantly then planning permission is not usually required.
With the relative relaxation in Permitted Development Rights it may also be possible to build a meaningful extension to the rear or side of your house. The following, although not exhaustive, provides a brief guide to what is allowed: In order to protect amenity space the total area of built over land, excluding the original house, can be no greater than 50 per cent of the total garden and must not extend forward from the principal elevation or any side elevation that fronts onto a highway.
Additionally, the maximum depth of a single storey, rear extension is three metres for an attached house and four metres for a detached with the maximum height allowable also set at four metres.
If you are proposing to build at the side of your house then without a formal consent, the new build element has to be less than half the width of the original house.
Lastly, both the roof pitch and external materials used need to match the main house.
These are just the basics. It worth checking out the Planning Portal web site www. planningportal.gov.uk/ permission/house.
If in any doubt I would suggest a visit to your local planning department
Jonathon Wingfield is Managing Director of Acanthus WSM Architects Ltd and Woodhall Planning and Conservation Ltd