Do I need planning permission? A good question to ask at the start of any home improvement. Finding out whether your project needs planning permission or whether it falls under an automatic, implied consent known as Permitted Development (PD) may affect how you decide to proceed.
Planning permission will take a minimum of 8 weeks for approval, and more for more complex schemes, so ensuring your project falls within the scope of PD can help your project get underway faster — something that may be particularly important if you're working on a strict timeline.
Permitted Development does require meeting stringent requirements for your project, which are governed by factors such as size, height and relation to your home's surroundings, particularly highways.
While your architect or build team will likely know exactly what qualifies as Permitted Development, these 26 home improvement projects give you an insight into the types of projects that give you an opportunity to flex your property's PD rights.
How Do I Know if I Need Planning Permission for a Home Improvement Project?
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With the help of this guide, you'll soon get to know exactly what can be done under Permitted Development, but while this is an implied consent for your project, it's always worth checking with your local authority. That's because in some areas, Permitted Development rights have been revoked, such as the ability to undertake a garage conversion under PD rights where on-road parking is an issue.
Another example is if you live in a designated area, such as a Conservation Area, or own a listed building. In these instances, PD rights often don't apply. Your property also has a limit to its Permitted Development rights, which don't reset when it changes ownership. That means if your home has already been extended, for example, it's Permitted Development rights have already been allocated if you wanted to undertake a similar project in the future.
Larger build projects, such as where you self build, demolish and replace an existing building or create a large extension, will generally be subject to planning permission.
1. Do I Need Planning Permission to Knock Down Internal Walls?
That any space added by past owners since 1948 counts towards your Permitted Development allocation.
Remodelling the interior, for example by knocking down internal walls, 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 Add a Window?
Adding a bay window is classed as extensions, so will have to meet Building Regulations standards for extending, as well as fitting within your PD rights allocation.
You won't usually require planning permission to add a new window or door into your home. This counts for replacing windows and moving them too. However, if you're building is listed, windows is one of the key areas where you may not be able to make a change, only replacing like for like, which could limit your options.
When it comes to inserting a new window on the upper storeys of the side elevation of your house, you'll require planning permission unless the windows are glazed with obscured glass to a standard of level 4 or 5 obscurity. They also must be a non-opening frame, unless 1.7m above the floor of the room the window is in.
However, you may need planning permission if planning 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: Window Styles)
Remember that for new or bigger windows or doors, you will need to follow Building Regulations guidance.
3. Do I Need Planning Permission to Convert a Garage?
If you're looking to convert an integral garage, or any building attached to the main house, to turn it into a living space, it's likely to fall under Permitted Developments. In fact, it's estimate only 10% of garage conversions will require a planning permission application.
However, if the garage was built after the house, you'll need to check with your local authority that this addition hasn't used your home's Permitted Development allocation.
It's worth noting than converting a detached garage is more likely to need planning permission in place. It will also require a change of use application under Planning Permission.
4. Do I Need Planning Permission for an Extension?
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.
5. Do I Need Planning Permission for a Rooflight?
Rooflights can be added under Permitted Development if they don't project more than 15 cm from the slope of your roof.
However, if the rooflights would extend forward of the roof plane on the elevation fronting a highway then they are not permitted, and will require a formal planning permission application.
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 under Permitted Development.
6. Do I Need Planning Permission for a Loft Conversion?
A loft conversion is a great way to extra space and value to your home 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.
7. Do I Need Planning Permission for a Two Storey Extension?
Adding a two storey extension under Permitted Development is a relatively new addition, designed to help fast-track this sort of home improvement to create extra habitable space for homeowners. However, to qualify under PD rights, it must be at the rear of the dwelling (this includes adding a second storey onto an existing single storey part of the house).
The two storey extension must also not exceed 3m in depth or be within 7m of the rear boundary. There are specific restrictions that apply to the design too, which can all be found on the Planning Portal.
8. Do I Need Planning Permission for a New Conservatory?
Similar to single storey extensions, conservatories and orangeries fall under the same restrictions and can be added under PD. Conservatories stand alone from most extensions however, as they can generally be built without Building Regulations sign off, if they're under 30m2 and have a exterior grade door separating them from the main house.
9. If I Construct a Shed, Garden Office 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: Planning Permission for Sheds)
10. I Plan on Converting Two Homes into One – Do I Need Planning Permission?
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. Do I Need Planning Permission to Add Another Storey to My House?
In certain circumstances, a whole storey can be added to your house under PD rights. Full rules are available on the Planning Portal website, but some of the limitations include:
- One storey only can be added to single storey dwellings such as adding a second storey to a bungalow.
- Two storey or more houses can add up to two storeys under Permitted Development.
- The house cannot exceed 18 metres overall.
- Each storey cannot add more than 3.5 metres to the height.
- The storey must be on the principal part of the house and the roof pitch must be the same after as it was before.
12. I Want a New Porch, Do I Need Planning Permission?
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.
(MORE: Porch Ideas)
13. Do I Need Planning Permission to Add a Fence or Wall?
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
14. 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, including that decking platforms can't be over 30cm from the ground.
15. I am Landscaping My Garden — Should I Apply for Planning Permission?
Soft landscaping garden design elements, such as re-turfing your lawn, installing new garden paving and generally cultivating your garden will not require planning permission.
However when it comes to fencing, walls and decking there are limitations. Some trees are protected under Tree Preservation Orders, so it's worth checking with the local council before felling or pruning trees.
16. Do I Need Planning Permission to Build a Swimming Pool?
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.
17. Do I Need Planning Permission to Create a New Driveway?
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.
Permission to create a new driveway 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.
18. Do I Need Planning Permission to Change Cladding?
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).
19. Do I Need Planning Permission to Add Extra Insulation?
PD Rights do not apply to flats or maisonettes due to the impact that any alterations could have on neighbouring properties.
If there's no change to the external appearance of your home, such as with internal wall insulation, then planning is not generally needed to install insulation. Homes in conservation areas or that are listed buildings should contact their local authority before adding insulation.
20. Is Planning Permission Required to Replace my Roof?
If you want or need to replace the roof on your house then this project usually falls under Permitted Development, with a few conditions, including no alteration projecting more than 150mm from the existing roof plane.
Again, it's worth checking with the local authority in your area before proceeding to check if there are any limits, especially if you live in a designated area, for example.
21. 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.
22. Do I Need Planning Permission to Add a Basement?
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.
23. If I 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.
24. I am Converting Industrial/Commercial Buildings — Do I Need Planning Permission?
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.
25. Do I Need Planning Permission for a Car Charging Port?
An electric vehicle charging point can be installed under PD rights, for areas being lawfully used for off-road parking. There are different restrictions on rights for wall-mounted chargers and charging stations with upstands, but neither have Permitted Development for listed buildings or sites classified as scheduled monuments.
When the charging point is no longer required for charging an electric car at home, these areas must be returned to their previous condition as soon as possible.
26. If I Add Outdoor Security or Lighting, Do I Need Planning Permission?
While installing security systems, security lighting and general outdoor lighting is not subject to planning control, nor requires PD rights, there are some considerations to keep in mind when specifying for your home.
Lighting should be installed ensuring that beams are not pointing directly at neighbours windows, while automatic PIR or timer lights should be set up in a way not to cause nuisance, including being triggered by people passing your property on the street. Failure to consider these could land you in court with a neighbour if considered to be negligent or causing a nuisance.
(MORE: Best Outdoor Wall Lights)
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.
Sally Tagg, MRTPI, is an expert in all things planning permission and is Managing Director of Foxley Tagg Planning Ltd, Executive Committee Member – National Custom & Self Build Association (NaCSBA) and Board Member of the Right to Build Taskforce. Sally and her team are a regular presence in The Planning Clinic at the Homebuilding & Renovating Show.
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