17 ways to improve your home without planning permission

If you’re hoping to extend or remodel your property, discover some of the projects you can complete under permitted development rights

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A 1970s home renovated and extended under permitted development

Certain types of home improvement don’t require planning permission as they qualify under something called permitted development rights (PD). In recent years, the government has extended what is permissible under PD in a bid to speed up the planning process. Here are 17 ways you could extend, convert or remodel your home to help it meet your needs:

1. Add a single-storey extension

Until 2019, the Government has doubled the maximum size of rear, single-storey extensions allowed under PD. It means you can add an eight-metre extension to a detached house (previously four metres) and a six-metre extension to an attached property (previously), without planning permission. However, the following criteria also apply:

  • The extension cannot sit forward of the existing front elevation of the property
  • Any materials used should be similar to the existing property
  • If the extension sits within two metres of a boundary, the roof cannot be higher than three metres, or four metres otherwise.
  • For side extensions, the width must not be greater than half the width of the existing house. Side extensions are not permitted in Conservation Areas or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Click here for expert advice on planning a single-storey extension.

2. Remodel your interior

As long as you’re not extending the overall footprint of your home, PD allows you to carry out interior remodelling – such as demolishing interior walls to create an open-plan space – without obtaining planning permission. You’ll need to follow Building Regulations guidance for some parts of the work, such as structural and electrical changes, though.

Refurbished Contemporary living room with outdoor atrium

This remodelled home was extended under permitted development to create a courtyard

3. Convert your garage

You can alter the internal space within an existing part of your property, such as incorporating an integral garage into your home, under PD rights, providing you are not increasing the overall footprint. Click here to find out more about converting your garage.

4. Add new windows or doors

Double-glazing can be installed under PD rights, as long as your property isn’t listed. If you’re planning to add new or bigger windows or doors, you’ll need to follow Building Regulations. Any new windows facing the sides of your property must have obscured glass and cannot open, unless they’re more than 1.7 metres above the floor of the room. It’s also worth bearing in mind that new bay windows are classed as extensions.

5. Installing rooflights

Rooflights can be added to your home under PD providing they don’t project more than 15cm from the roof slope. However, planning permission is required where they would extend forward of the roof plane at the front of the property, and they aren’t allowed on properties in a Conservation Area or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

6. Converting your loft

Loft conversions are a great way to create extra space and, if they’re under 40 cubic metres, they may not require planning permission. PD also allows for the construction of dormer windows, which will provide additional headroom within a converted loft. However, these must not sit higher than the highest part of your existing roof, or extend forward of the roof plane at the front of the house.

metal bath in a loft conversion to an old home

7. Adding a two-storey extension

A two-storey extension can only be added to your house under PD rights if it is at the rear. This includes adding a second storey above an existing single-storey part of the house. A two-storey extension must not exceed three-metres in depth or be within seven-metres of the rear boundary. Specific restrictions will also apply to the windows in such extensions. Click here to find out more.

8. Add an outbuilding

Whether you’d like a home office, a summerhouse or a detached garage, adding an outbuilding in your garden is likely to be allowed under PD rights, unless you live in a conservation area.

You should avoid building in front of your property, as this generally requires planning permission, and your plans will also need to meet the following criteria:

  • Outbuildings must be single storey with a maximum eaves height of 2.5 metres and maximum overall height of four metres with a dual pitched roof, or three metres for any other roof.
  • No verandas, balconies or raised platforms are allowed.
  • Your room must be no bigger than 30 square metres and cannot occupy more than 50 per cent of the total space of your garden.
  • Planning permission will be needed for rooms used as accommodation – click here to find out more.
  • In National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the maximum area to be covered by outbuildings that are more than 20 metres from house is 10 square metres.

9. Add a porch

Most PD rights do not allow changes to the front of your house, but building a porch is an exception. So long as the porch is not taller than three metres; within two metres of a boundary next to a highway; or over three metres square; it can be added without planning permission. To find out more, click here.

10. Make two become one

If you’re thinking of moving because of a lack of space, consider whether you could convert two houses, such as a pair of semis or two flats, into one, as this can usually be done under PD. It’s worth knowing that the same rules do not applying to splitting an existing property into two – this requires full planning permission.

11. Change gates, fences and walls

You can erect, maintain, improve or alter a gate, fence or wall, providing it doesn’t exceed one metre tall, if next to a highway, or two metres for any other boundary. For listed buildings, you’ll need to apply for planning permission.

12. Splash out on a swimming pool

A swimming pool is sure to be a hit with all the family. Under PD rights, you can build an outdoor pool within your garden as long as the area it covers does not exceed 50 per cent of your garden. If you’d rather your pool was indoors, see point eight for the rules on creating an outbuilding.

open plan kitchen redesign garden with swimming pool

Planning permission was required for this home redesign, but adding a pool falls under permitted development

13. Think about cladding

Timber, stone and render are all popular types of external cladding and can usually be added under PD rights, providing your home isn’t within a Conservation Area or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Adding cladding alone doesn’t require Building Regulations approval – but if you’re planning to add insulation, you’ll need to apply to your local building control department. For advice on adding timber cladding, click here.

14. Create a decked area

PD rights cover putting up decking in your garden, providing it’s no more than 30cm above the ground. The decking, plus any extensions or outbuildings, also cannot cover more than 50 per cent of your garden.

15. Install solar panels

Solar panels can be added to your home under PD, providing they don’t protrude more than 20cm above the surface they’re attached to, and that the highest part of the panel is not higher than the highest part of the roof, excluding the chimney. Restrictions apply in Conservation Areas and on listed buildings. And if you’d prefer to add freestanding panels in the grounds of your house, click here for the full criteria.

16. Parking

Adding a driveway is allowed under PD rights, providing any surface over five square metres is made of porous material, or that run-off water from the surface will be directed into a permeable area within the property boundary – not onto the highway. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that adding a drop kerb outside your home will require planning permission.

17. Basements

If you don’t have sufficient space to extend or convert above ground, you can build into your basement. This will provide you with extra space, without reducing the size of your garden. PD covers converting an existing basement into living space, so long as there will be no change to the exterior of the house and it won’t be used as a separate dwelling. Excavating to create a new basement, which involves major works; adding a separate unit of accommodation; and/or altering the external appearance of the house; is likely to require planning permission. For advice on converting a basement, click here.

Always check with the experts

This article highlights what you may be able to do under PD, but 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 removed. If you’re thinking of selling the property in the future, obtain a Certificate of Lawful Development from your local authority, confirming the project falls within PD. This will usually cost £75. For more information, visit planningportal.co.uk

Please note, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have their own version of these rules.