Permitted development rights: What you need to know

Great news – improving your home just got easier. Last month the government gave homeowners more freedom to improve their homes without the need for planning permission. This was done through something called permitted development rights – a list of things you can do without needing to ask your district or borough council's planning department first.

What's the background?

Six years ago, the government relaxed the planning rules temporarily to allow people to build bigger extensions. Single-storey extensions can now be eight metres long on detached houses, and six metres long on other houses. The previous limits were four metres and three metres. Parliament has now voted to make the change permanent.

That said, there's a long list of conditions your extension needs to meet if you're going to build it under permitted development rights:

Distance from the road: Extensions at the front or side of the house mustn't be closer to a road or other public right of way (footpath or bridleway) than the house is now.

Height: Extensions at the front or side of the house mustn't be higher than the house is now, or more than four metres high.

If the extension comes within two metres of the boundary of your property, the eaves – the edge of the roof where it meets the wall – can't be more than three metres high.

Width: Side extensions can't be more than half the width of the original house (i.e. the house as it was when it was built) or as it was on 1 July 1948, if it was built before then.

Other buildings: No more than half the land around the original house must be built on.

Number of floors: Side extensions can only have one storey. You can have a multiple-storey extension at the back of the house, as long as it isn't more than three metres long, and is at least seven metres from the back boundary.

Materials: You should use materials that look similar to the main house.

Balconies: You can't build a balcony or veranda.

Permitted development rights only apply to houses, not flats, maisonettes or conversions.

Permission from neighbours

If you're building an extension of 4-8 metres long on a detached house, and 3-6 metres long on other houses, you still need to tell the council about your plans, and they will ask your neighbours on either side if they're okay with them. This is called the neighbour consultation scheme. If your neighbours raise concerns which the council considers valid, the council can forbid you from going ahead.

What about protected areas?

Permitted development rights don't necessarily apply in protected areas, including conservation areas, national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, world heritage sites and the Norfolk or Suffolk Broads. You need permission for all side extensions, and for multiple-storey extensions at the back of the house.

South east London architects Bluelime Home Design have been working on homes across London and Kent for 13 years – so we know the planning laws inside out. We have offices in DartfordBromleyErithBexley and Croydon, and have built close relationships with the council planning departments across these areas – so we know what they're likely to approve. Call 01322 517632 for a free architect consultation.

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