Changes to the Planning Regulations - Permitted Development

Homeowners planning to add space to their property will have less red tape to negotiate now that planning regulations covering extensions and loft conversions have been relaxed. The changes are expected to affect around 80,000 homeowners a year and came in to affect on 1st October.

Since the property market picked up in 1995 the number of householder planning applications in the UK has more than doubled to an annual total of almost 330,000. The changes are expected to save the taxpayer up to £50 million a year by removing almost a quarter of those planning applications from overburdened local planning offices.

The new regulations will be less warmly welcomed by adjoining owners wishing to preserve the flow of daylight to the rear of their properties. As long as projects fall within the new guidelines, neighbours will be powerless to object.

The New Regulations

Under the new regulations single-storey rear extensions up to 4 metres deep can be added to detached properties without permission. On semi-detached or terraced properties the maximum depth is reduced to 3 metres. Two storey rear extensions on all properties must be no more than 3 metres deep and not within 2 metres of a boundary line. In a further change to the current regulations there will no longer be a maximum volume allowance for ground based extensions.

Volume allowances will still apply to loft conversions. Lofts to detached properties can be converted without planning permission provided any dormers do not add more than 50 cubic metres to the property. That allowance is 50 cubic metres on a detached house reducing to 40 cubic metres on semi-detached and terraced houses. Dormer windows will still not be permitted to the elevation facing the highway.

Despite the changes the best advice is still to contact the local planning office and discuss your proposals before any work begins. They will be able to inform you of any reason why the work may not be permitted and if you need to apply for planning permission for all or part of the work. Local Authorities still have the right to issue Article 4 directions which remove permitted development rights. These tend to be used where the character of an area of acknowledged importance would be threatened.

Further restrictions will always apply to properties within Conservation Areas and within the curtilage of listed buildings.

Building Regulations approval will still be required for all extensions and if the work affects a shared wall or involves excavating close to a neighbouring property it will probably fall within the scope of the Party Wall Act and will require notice to be served. One other positive bit of news is that homeowners will not be required to pay more council tax as a result of extending their home under the new regulations.  

The new regulations also cover driveways. As the number of property owners paving over their front gardens has escalated the problem of flooding from surface water run-off has become more acute. Flooding caused £3 billion worth of damage last year alone and it is estimated that with two-thirds of the homes affected run-off surface water was a factor.

To try and tackle this serious problem new driveways or parking areas will not require planning permission under the new regulations if a permeable material such as gravel or open jointed paving is used.

Although the changes will not please everybody the main beneficiaries are likely to be those homeowners who cannot sell their present property as a result of the credit crunch. For growing families in such a position extending their home may be the only viable alternative.

You can view full details of the new regulations for permitted developments on the Government Planning Portal - the interactive house is very impressive!

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