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20 Things You Can Do Without Planning Permission

A rear extension to this family home has transformed the property
(Image credit: Paul Arthur)

Does your planned home improvement project need planning permission? If you are wanting to knock down a rebuild or build a huge extension, then yes, you will need need permission from your local authority before you begin.

But there are numerous smaller improvements that you may be surprised to learn can be undertaken without planning permission. Projects such as installing rooflights, converting your garage, changing your cladding or adding a conservatory can all be completed with implied consent known as Permitted Development (PD).

There are limitations to these rights, especially if you have already made considerable alterations to your home or if you live in a designated area or a listed building. Always check before you start work to avoid any issues.

Read on for a list of 20 popular home improvement projects that you can do without planning permission.

When Do I Need Planning Permission?

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You should always check with your Local Planning Authority to ensure you do not require planning permission, as in some cases PD rights may have been restricted or removed.

If you are building from scratch, planning a large extension or making improvements to a listed building (or a property in a AONB, or other specially designated area) then you will need planning permission. Our complete guide to planning permission will guide you through the process.

But for smaller home improvements, like those listed below, it is likely that you can complete these under Permitted Development.

1. Does an Interior Remodel Need Planning Permission?

A contemporary extension to this tired 1950s house has created bright, open spaces perfect for a growing family

Alongside the addition of a new single storey room, the interior of this 1950s house has been remodelled to make better use of the existing space in the original house (Image credit: Jody Stewart)

Remodelling the interior is a great way to add more space to your home and can often be done within PD, especially if your proposed work does not require you to extend the overall footprint of the dwelling.

While you won’t need planning permission, you will need Building Regulations approval on structural elements and electrical works.

2. Do I Need Planning Permission to Move/Add Windows & Doors?

These homeowners have flooded their New England-inspired home with natural light during their extensive remodel

The addition of new door and window openings is normally included within your Permitted Development Rights. These homeowners have flooded their New England-inspired home with natural light during their extensive remodel (Image credit: Nigel Rigden)

In normal circumstances, you can replace or add new windows in the original walls of your house without needing planning approval. However, you may need planning permission if conditions were attached to the original permission. Check with your local authority if you are unsure if there are any conditions attached or what they are.

(MORE: Our Guide to Choosing Windows)

As long as your building isn’t listed, you should be able to install double glazing under PD, but do remember that for new or bigger windows or doors, you will need to follow Building Regulations guidance. Bear in mind that bay windows are classed as extensions.

Planning permission to insert a new window or door opening is not required as long as any upper floor windows on the side elevation are glazed with obscured glass (level 4 or 5 obscurity). They must also be fixed into a non-opening frame (unless the opener is more than 1.7m above the floor of the room in which the window is installed).

3. Do I Need Planning Permission to Convert a Garage?

This garage was converted to create a spacious kitchen-diner

Attached buildings, like garages, can normally be converted without planning permission (unless your property is listed or in a designated area) (Image credit: Oliver Beamish)

Converting an attached building, like an integral garage, into living space also falls under PD as you are not increasing the overall footprint of the building.

Converting a standalone garage will involve applying for a change of use under Building Regulations.

(MORE: Ultimate Guide to Taking on a Garage Conversion)

4. How Big Can a Single-Storey Extension be Without Planning Permission?

A rear extension to this family home has transformed the property

Penny and Douglas Dawson have transformed their home with the addition of a single-storey extension to the rear of their home. The project was defined as Permitted Development  (Image credit: Paul Arthur)

As long as you stay within the below parameters, you can build a single-storey extension without needing planning permission:

  • The extension does not sit forward of the principal elevation
  • Materials should be similar
  • Where it is within 2m of any boundary, the eaves cannot be higher than 3m, and no more than 4m in height otherwise
  • Rear extensions — no more than 4m in depth (detached house) or 3m in depth (semi-detached or terrace)
  • Side extensions — the width of the extension must not be greater than half the width of the original dwelling. Side extensions are not permitted on Article 1(5) Land (e.g. AONB, Conservation Areas)

See the planningportal.gov.uk for a full list of caveats.

Editor's Note: Homebuilding.co.uk partners with the UK's best extension specialists to match your requirements with their services. Simply answer a few questions on what you need from your extension and we’ll put you in touch with a suitable partner.

5. I Want Rooflights — Do I Need Planning Permission?

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Under PD you can make alterations to the roof of a dwelling, like the introduction of rooflights, as long as they do not project more than 15cm from the roof slope.

If the rooflights would extend forward of the roof plane on the elevation fronting a highway then they are not permitted under PD.

It is worth noting that rooflights are not permitted on a dwelling which is located in a Conservation Area or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

(MORE: Rooflight Buyer’s Guide)

6. If I Convert my Loft, Do I Need Planning Permission?

Built in furniture from Neville Johnson in converted loft

Whether you need extra space for a master suite, second living room or home office, you can extend into your loft without needing planning permission. (Image credit: Neville Johnson)

Additional space can also be achieved through a loft conversion, without the need for planning consent. While there are limitations on the cubic content allowed under PD, generally, up to 40m³ is fine.

When it comes to additional headroom in the loft space, PD allows for the construction of dormer windows. But, they must not sit higher than the highest part of the existing roof, or extend forward of the roof plane on the principal elevation.

(MORE: Need a quote for your loft conversion?)

7. Do I Need Planning Permission for a Two Storey Extension?

You can add a two storey extension to your home under PD, providing it is at the rear of the dwelling (this includes adding a second storey onto an existing single storey part of the house).

In addition, your two storey extension must not exceed 3m in depth or be within 7m of the rear boundary. Specific restrictions also apply to the glazed nature of windows in such extensions.

8. Does Adding a Conservatory Need Planning Permission?

Similar to single storey extensions, conservatories and orangeries fall under the same restrictions and can be added under PD.

9. If I Add a Shed or Outbuilding, Do I Need Planning Permission?

There may be opportunity to build multiple outbuildings under PD, providing the total area covered by such buildings/enclosures does not exceed 50% of the total area of the curtilage. This 50% should take into account any extensions, but not the area covered by the main house.

  • Outbuildings cannot sit forward of the principal elevation
  • There are height restrictions depending on the type of roof (4m for dual pitch roofs, 3m for other roofs, and 2.5m when the building is within 2m of the boundary)
  • Outbuildings may only be single storey, with the maximum eaves height remaining at 2.5m
  • Outbuildings under PD cannot be used for residential accommodation, e.g. bedrooms or an annexe, but can be used to provide a place to work from home.

(MORE: Creating an Outbuilding or Garden Room)

10. I Want to Convert Two Homes into One – Do I Need Planning Permission?

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Converting a pair of semis or two flats, into one property can usually be done under PD and can be a great way of generating extra space without having to move.

Unfortunately, the same rules do not apply if you are dividing a single property into two dwellings. For this you would need to apply for planning permission.

11. If I Add a Porch, Do I Need Planning Permission?

A charming oak framed self build cottage in a beautiful village setting

Provided they don’t measure more than 3m², porches like this can be added without needing planning permission. (Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

As long as your new porch conforms with the criteria below, you don’t need planning permission.

  • No part of the porch can be taller than 3m
  • It cannot be within 2m of any boundary adjacent to a highway
  • The ground area (measured externally) does not exceed 3m².

12. Does Adding Gates, Walls and Fences Need Planning Permission?

Permitted Development facilitates the erection, construction, maintenance, improvement or alteration to a gate, fence, wall or other means of enclosure, providing such work stays within the following limitations:

  • The height would not exceed 1m when adjacent to a highway
  • The height would not exceed 2m for any other gate, fence etc
  • Such development is not permitted under PD around a listed building

13. Do I Need Planning Permission for New Garden Decking?

As long as the height falls below 300mm, garden decking and other similar structures can be built without planning permission, as long as certain criteria are met (available at planningportal.co.uk).

14. Do I Need Planning Permission to Build a Swimming Pool?

swimming pool in garden of London Passivhaus

On the provision that they do not exceed half of the garden, swimming pools such as the one can be built under Permitted Development  (Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

Under your Permitted Development rights you can build a swimming pool within your garden, provided that the total area covered by the pool does not exceed 50% of the area of the garden curtilage.

15. Do I Need Planning Permission to Create New Access?

Doing Up a Property to Sell?

It might be best to obtain a Certificate of Lawful Development from your local authority, confirming the project falls within PD.  An application usually costs around £75.

(MOREHow to Renovate for Profit)

This will depend on the classification of the road you are looking to create access from/to. Creating a new vehicular access onto an unclassified road can be done under PD, but you will need planning permission to create accesses onto classified roads.

For a new access onto a classified road, you will need to ensure sufficient visibility when leaving the site, as well as enough turning space to allow you to enter and exit in a forward gear.

16. Do I Need Planning Permission to Change/Add Cladding?

New England-style remodel of a tired bungalow

Homeowners Paul and Gemma have undertaken a recladding scheme as part of the remodel of their home. This can normally be done without needing planning permission (Image credit: Nigel Rigden)

Cladding (stone, pebble dash, render, timber, etc.) changes may fall under PD, but is not permitted under PD on any dwelling house located on Article 1(5) land (this includes special areas, like an AONB, National Park, World Heritage site or Conservation Area).

(MORE: How to Choose the Right Cladding)

17. I Want to Add Solar Panels – Do I Need Planning Permission?

Solar panels can be added under PD, providing they do not protrude more than 200mm beyond the plane of the wall or roof, and that the highest part of the panel is not higher than the highest part of the roof (excluding the chimney).

Free-standing panels can also be developed, but are limited in size and proximity to the boundary.

Limitations will apply in Conservation Areas and on listed buildings.

18. Do I Need Planning Permission to Add a Basement?

A semi-basement was built in to this narrow plot home in London

This semi-basement was built in to a narrow plot home in London (Image credit: Alistair Nicholls)

In a recent appeal decision, it was considered that basements could be PD under Class A of the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO). However, bear in mind that PD does not allow for engineering works.

19. If I Add/Create Parking Spaces, Will I Need Planning Permission?

Class F of the GPDO refers to the provision of hard surfaces, such as parking areas.

These are permitted under PD providing that:

  • any hard surface situated between the principal elevation of a dwelling and the highway, or any surface which would exceed 5m², is made of porous materials
  • provision is made to direct run-off water from the surface into a permeable/porous area within the property curtilage and not onto the highway.

20. Do I Need Planning Permission When Converting Industrial/Commercial Buildings?

It is possible to convert an industrial, commercial or agricultural building for residential use, without the need for planning permission. As is often the case, you will require approval for Listed Buildings and in Conservation Areas.

You will also need to follow the Prior Notification procedure if you are converting an agricultural building such as a barn.

It must be noted also that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each benefit from their own version of these rules, so it is always best to check with the relevant planning authority.