17 ways to improve your home without planning permission

Planning on extending or remodelling your home? Find out if it's possible to complete your project without planning permission

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If you're planning on extending or renovating your home, it may be possible to save time and money by applying under permitted development – an option that allows you to avoid planning permission altogether. 

In recent years, the government has extended what is permissible under PD in a bid to speed up the planning process. Sound appealing? Find out what could be achieved with our guide to improving your home without planning permission.

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.

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.

contemporary glass extension added to terraced victorian house by IQ glass soutions

(Image: © IQ Glass Solutions)

2. Remodel your interior 

As long as you’re not extending the overall footprint of your home, permitted development 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

3. Convert your garage

Permitted development allows you to alter the internal space within an existing part of your property as long as you are not increasing the overall footprint. This means that it's possible to convert a garage without applying for planning permission.

lower level garage converted in to a kitchen diner and living space by Barc Architects

(Image: © Barc Architects)

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.

Modern extension and crittall style windows added to Victorian villa

(Image: © David Woolley)

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

Under eaves storage in a loft for shoes

(Image: © Barbara Genda)

6. Converting your loft

Converting a loft is a great option for creating extra space and, if they’re under 40 cubic metres, 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 further forward than the roof plane at the front of the house.

(Image: © Chris Snook)

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. 

For more guidance when it comes to adding a two storey extension under permitted development, have a read of our guide. 

(Image: © Malcolm Menzies)

8. Add a garden room

Whether you’d like a home office, studio or summerhouse, adding a garden room 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.
  • 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.

Green Retreats garden room

(Image: © Green Retreats)

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. 

10. Combine two buildings

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.

Glass box extension on a period property

(Image: © van Ellen + Sheryn)

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.

spear top tall wrought iron gate mounted on brick pillars

12. Invest in a swimming pool

Adding a swimming pool is sure to be a popular decision for the whole 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.

(Image: © Chris Snook)

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.

a timber clad mobile home in the New Forest

(Image: © Nigel Rigden)

14. Create a decked area

PD rights cover installing 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.

Decking in a small garden

(Image: © Garden House Design )

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

solar panels attached to rural cottage images by douglas gibb

(Image: © Douglas Gibb)

16. Adding a driveway

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.

new england style home with cladding and block paving driveway image by nigel rigden

(Image: © Nigel Rigden)

17. Converting a basement

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 room, 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.

basement conversion in terraced house image by jody stewart

(Image: © Jody Stewart)

Have our extension ideas left you feeling inspired? Find more information here...