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Planning permission: What you need to know

If you’re thinking of doing some building work to your house, you may need to seek planning permission.

You’ll usually need to apply for planning permission if you want to build something new, make a major change to your home or change what your building is used for.

If you build something and you don’t get planning permission, you’ll be served an enforcement notice. If this happens, you’ll have to undo all the changes you’ve made.

The rules for planning permission vary between England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, so it’s best to double check your local authorities’ website before you apply.

An architect sketches out a change to a house which will require planning permission


Planning permission terminology

Before we get into the ins and outs of planning permission, here are a few terms to bear in mind.

Principle elevation – This is the front of the house. In most houses the principle elevation faces the road - or it’s the part of the house that most members of the public will see.

Side elevation – Once you’ve established the principle elevation, you’ll be able to work out the side elevation, which is the side of the house.

Rear elevation – This is the back of the house, usually facing the garden.

Eaves - The part of a roof that meets or overhangs the walls of the building.

Property boundary – This is the line on a housing plan which divides one house from another, including the garden. This could be a fence, wall or hedge.

Often these boundaries can cause disputes as there’s usually no record of the exact boundary between two properties.


Do I need planning permission?

Getting planning permission depends on what you’re intending to build and what rules your local authority set out. Here are some basic rules for common types of building work:

In these cases, planning permission shouldn’t be needed, provided that:

Extensions and conservatories

  • The new extension is less than half the area of your existing property. This includes any other buildings within the property boundary.
  • The extension is lower than the eaves of the existing house.
  • The extension doesn’t extend beyond any wall facing a road if it’s at the front or the side of the house.
  • If your extension is within 2 metres of your property, the eaves of the extension must be less than 3 metres in height.
  • The materials used are similar to the ones used on the existing house.
  • Any upper floor, side-facing window within 15 metres of another house is obscured or glazed. Also, any part of the window that opens must be 1.7 metres above the floor of the room it’s in.
  • Any side extension must be less than 4 metres in height, and it should also be less than half the width of the original house.

Single storey extensions

  • If your house is detached, the extension doesn’t extend beyond the rear wall of your house by more than 4metres. It’s 3 metres for any other type of house.
  • The height of the single storey extension is 4 metres or less.

Multiple storey extensions

  • The extension doesn’t extend beyond the rear wall of the property by more than 3 metres.
  • The extension is within 7 meters of the property boundary opposite the rear wall of the house.
  • The roof of the extension is the same standard as the original house

If you live in a world heritage site, area of outstanding beauty or a national park:

Restrictions on planning permission are likely to be tighter if you live in a world heritage site, area of outstanding beauty or a national park.

In these cases it is recommended that you consult your local planning office to find out if planning permission will be required.

Conservatories are usually classed as an extension, so it will need to comply with these regulations.

Other dwellings attached to the house

If it’s a separate, self-contained unit, you’ll need to get permission. If not, it should be treated in the same way as an extension.

Converting your house into flats or apartments

You’ll need planning permission if you’re converting your house into one or more flats and want to become a landlord, for example.

Even if very little building work is involved, if your house is being used for something else it’s counted as a change of use. This requires planning permission.

Changing your house for homeworking

Planning permission may not be necessary if you’re thinking of using part of your house for working from home. It depends on the scale of building work and how you’ll be using it. It’s best to check this with your local planning office.

You can find out more about the rules around permitted rights and planning permission at the Planning Portal website.


How  to apply for planning permission

Most applications for planning permission are now made online. You can usually find these through your local council’s website.

In England and Wales you can find your local authority on the planning portal website, simply enter your postcode into the ‘find your council’ section for their contact details.

In Ireland you can apply through your local authorities’ website too. In Scotland you can use the ePlanning portal to apply.

It’s important to remember that each local authority has different rules on planning. So even if you’re positive you don’t need planning permission, it’s better to contact your local planning office before you apply.


Can I change  my planning application?

Once you’ve submitted a planning application  you can usually make amends through the website. If any further charges need to be made because of the amendment, a separate payment will be taken.


How much does planning permission cost?

In most cases, there will be a planning application fee.  But this varies depending on what you’re intending to build.

You can calculate the rough cost of your planning permission application using the planning portals fee calculator.


After you apply for planning permission

Your local planning authority will decide whether to grant planning permission for your project based on the development plan. It doesn’t consider whether locals will want it.

The planning authority will look at:

  • The number, size, layout, its surroundings and external appearance of the buildings
  • The facilities, for example roads and water supply.
  • How much landscaping the build requires.
  • What your new development will be used for.
  • How your building work might affect the area around you. For example, if it would create a lot more traffic.


How long does planning permission take?

You should usually find out if planning permission has been granted within eight weeks, however for larger or complex applications the time limit is 13 weeks. If this takes longer you can always appeal.


How long does planning permission last?

Unless stated otherwise, your planning permission will last for three years. Should you decide to sell the property and move house during that time, the planning permission will remain in force for the benefit of its next owner.

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Tell your home insurer

Once you’ve got planning permission for your project make sure you talk to your home insurance company. You may need to change your home insurance policy type or you may want to arrange alternative accommodation