Permitted development rights: improving a home without planning permission

Permitted development rights mean you can extend or improve a home without the need for planning permission. This is what you need to know

Permitted development rights: oak frame extension added to country cottage by prime oak
(Image credit: Prime Oak)

Permitted development rights (PD) can make home improvement projects such as extending, converting a loft or garage, or even adding a new storey to your home possible without the need to obtain planning permission.

They can save you time as well as money, and provide certainty about a project since you won’t have to worry about a refusal.

But there are restrictions on permitted development it’s essential to know about before going ahead, as well as size limits and other rules it’s crucial to abide by whether you’re extending a house or planning a house renovation.

Our guide explains what permitted development rights are, what they allow, and when they might be restricted so you can plan your project successfully.

What are permitted development rights?

Permitted development rights are an automatic grant of planning permission which allow certain building works. Permitted development rights for extensions and other projects, and those for changes of use, mean the work can be carried out without having to make a planning application.

Note that we’re talking houses here. ‘Most properties benefit from permitted development rights, however, flats and maisonettes do not, therefore planning permission will be required,’ notes Thomas Goodman, property and construction expert at MyJobQuote (opens in new tab).

Making use of permitted development rights can speed up a project. ‘Compared to seeking planning permission, which will be judged by council officials, it can be a quick process as long as you follow the rules set by the government,’ explains Mark Morris, planning consultant, Urbanist Architecture (opens in new tab).

‘You don’t have to worry about planning permission being refused and it is generally an easier route when wanting to extend your home. However, you’ll still need to adhere to some basic principles such as ensuring any extension is in keeping with your home, for example using the same or very similar brick.’

While it's essential to check with your local council first, permitted development rights should provide you with automatic planning permission (subject to size constraints) for:

This said, you should be aware of the following facts:

  • Permitted development rights are updated regularly, so ask your local planning authority for the latest details;
  • Balconies, verandas and platforms (above 30cm) are not covered by permitted development rights;
  • Permitted development rights don’t automatically apply to conservation areas or listed buildings (see below);
  • Permitted development rules vary in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and can differ across local authorities, so always check before proceeding with your project;
  • It is advised you apply for a Lawful Development Certificate to show the work was carried out under PD and does not need planning approvals.

‘Permission is deemed to be granted in accordance with specified conditions and limitations, and minimises, or avoids, the intervention of local planning authorities (rights differ in environmentally sensitive areas such as national parks, conservation areas and SSSIs (sites of special scientific interest); whether or not a house is detached and where the house is located in relation to a highway),’ explains Jill Naylor, associate director of Emery Planning (opens in new tab).

‘These limitations are complex and sometimes open to interpretation. The government has produced technical guidance to assist, but we would usually advise obtaining a certificate from the local authority (see below) to confirm that what you intend to do would accord with PD rights. 

‘In some circumstances the prior approval of the local authority is required to certain aspects before the development may proceed. 

‘Local authorities may restrict permitted development rights either on an area-wide basis, or on an individual property by way of a condition on a previous planning permission. However, the local authority should be confident that it is reasonable to do this, and not simply restrict rights when there is an opportunity to do so.’

What could you construct under permitted development rights?

There are limitations on what you can build as well as rules to follow, but homes can be transformed without planning permission. Jill Naylor provides these examples of what could be constructed using permitted development rights:

  • Single storey side extensions of up to half the width of the original dwelling. These may also project beyond the original rear elevation by up to 8m (subject to prior approval).
  • Single storey extension(s) projecting up to 8m (subject to prior approval), or up to 4m without prior approval, from the original rear elevation of the dwelling.
  • Two storey extension(s) projecting up to 3m beyond the original rear elevation of the dwelling (not beyond the side).
  • Dormer, or other roof extensions, (subject to size limitations and relationship to a highway).
  • One additional storey above the principal part of a single storey house (subject to prior approval).
  • Up to two additional storeys above the principal part of a two-storey house (subject to prior approval).
  • Single storey detached buildings within the curtilage (this usually equates to the domestic garden) to provide, for example, a gym, home office, games room, music and/or other hobbies room, garden store, garage, swimming pool, home cinema.

Can permitted development rights be combined?

Permitted development rights don’t limit you to a single improvement. ‘The opportunities can be used in combination with each other,’ explains Jill Naylor, ‘providing each particular element accords with all the applicable limitations. So, for example a single storey extension may wrap around the side and part of the rear of the dwelling, providing the maximum width of the extension is not more than half the width of the original house. 

‘A rear extension may be partly two storey and partly single storey providing it does not project more than 3m from the original rear elevation. Be aware that if a house has an original projection at the rear, that will have a side elevation and any rear extension will also have to accord with the limitations for extensions beyond a side elevation.’

Where might permitted development rights be restricted?

In some areas of the country, known generally as 'designated areas', permitted development rights are more restricted, so you will need to apply for planning permission for certain types of work which do not need an application in other areas. 

These areas include:

  • Conservation areas, as mentioned above;
  • National Parks;
  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty;
  • World Heritage Sites;
  • The Norfolk or Suffolk Broads.

Some local planning authorities may also remove some of your permitted development rights by issuing an 'Article 4' direction. This might be because the character of an area is of acknowledged importance (such as a conservation area) and would be threatened by unrestricted works. 

This will mean that you have to submit a planning application for work which normally does not need one. Check with your local planning authority if you are not sure.

The following are also not covered:

  • Balconies
  • Verandas
  • Raised platforms (above 300mm)
  • A drive made with non-porous materials (ie, tarmac)

How to check if your project qualifies for permitted development rights

The government's planning portal has a very useful interactive tool (opens in new tab) that will allow you to quickly discover which project – or part of your project – might be allowed under permitted development rights or require planning permission

If you have permitted development rights do you need to make a planning application?

Where a relevant permitted development right is in place, you will not need to apply to your local planning authority for permission. However, in some cases, it may be necessary to first obtain planning approval from a local planning authority before carrying out work deemed as permitted development, and permitted development rights will not override your obligation to comply with other permissions, regulations or consents. 

‘It's easy to believe that you can skip straight to the construction stage because there's no need for planning permission,’ says Thomas Goodman. ‘However, if your designs do not meet requirements, your project may face hefty fines and even demolition. Furthermore, there are other requirements that a project must meet, such as: UK construction regulations; party wall matters; and makeover agreements.’

Our advice? Always check with your local council before proceeding and obtain a lawful development certificate for the work (see below).

What is a lawful development certificate?

In a nutshell, if you want proof that your project is allowed under permitted development and does not require planning permission, you can apply to your local council through the planning portal online application service (opens in new tab) for a lawful development certificate (LDC). 

‘Under basic permitted development, you don’t need paperwork on permission to extend your home, as long as the rules are adhered to,’ explains Mark Morris. ‘However, homeowners can apply for a lawful development certificate from the planning department before any work is started and at the plans stage. 

‘This shows that your extension is within the rules and parameters of permitted development, and this can be helpful when it comes to selling your home or re-mortgaging as it takes away any doubt and questions over any work you have had done.’

The application should include enough information for the council to decide the application – as much as you might put in for a planning application is advisable – or it may be refused. Ask your LPA's planning officers for advice on this. There is a fee.

If your application for an LDC is partly or wholly refused, you can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

Sarah Warwick
Sarah Warwick

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For Realhomes.com, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.

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