Improve your home without planning permission: 18 clever ideas

Can you complete your project without planning permission, whether you're planning on extending or remodelling your home? Find out here

Improve your home without planning permission. Pocket sliding doors in contemporary extension photographed by nigel rigden
(Image credit: Nigel Rigden)

Looking to improve your home without planning permission? Whether you're planning on extending or renovating, doing so may save time and money. There are lots of home improvements that you can make without planning permission. These include adding an extension, a loft conversion or a garden room, subject of course, to all the proper checks. Working without planning permission means you'll be transforming your home under permitted development rights, which can speed up the process, saving you money in the long run. Sound appealing? Find out which home improvements you can make without planning permission. 

For much more info, see our guide to planning permission.

Improving without planning permission? Check first

This article highlights what you may be able to do under permitted development rights (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 around £100. For more information, visit planningportal.co.uk.

Please note, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have their own version of these rules, so be sure to check locally.

1. Add a single storey extension without planning permission

Until 2019, the Government has doubled the maximum size of rear, single storey extensions allowed under PD. It means you can add an 8m extension to a detached house (previously 4m) and a 6m extension to an attached property (previously 3m), without planning permission. You can find out more in our guide to permitted development rights for extensions. 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 2m of a boundary, the roof cannot be higher than 3m, or 4m 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;
  • Find out more about building a single-storey extension.

Improving without planning permission: contemporary glass extension added to terraced victorian house by IQ glass soutions

(Image credit: IQ Glass Solutions)

2. Remodel your interior without planning permission

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 layout – 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.

Be inspired by these open plan room design ideas.

Refurbished Contemporary living room with outdoor atrium


3. Convert your garage without planning permission

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.

Find out all you need to know about planning a garage conversion in our guide.

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

(Image credit: Barc Architects)

4. Add new windows or doors without planning permission

Double-glazing can be installed without planning permission, 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 1.7m above the floor of the room. It’s also worth bearing in mind that new bay windows are classed as extensions.

Find out how to choose windows for a period home in our guide.

Modern extension and crittall style windows added to Victorian villa

(Image credit: David Woolley)

5. Install rooflights without planning permission

Rooflights can be added to your home without planning permission, 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.

Find out how to choose the best rooflights for your home.

Under eaves storage in a loft for shoes

(Image credit: Barbara Genda)

6. Convert your loft without planning permission

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.

Read our guide to planning a loft conversion to get yours right.

7. Add a double storey extension without planning permission

A double storey extension can only be added to your house without planning permission – and 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 3m in depth or be within 7m of the rear boundary. Specific restrictions will also apply to the windows in such extensions. 

For more guidance when it comes to adding a double storey extension, have a read of our guide. 

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

8. Add a garden room without planning permission

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 credit: Green Retreats)

9. Add a porch without planning permission

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 3m; within 2m of a boundary next to a highway; or over 3m square; it can be added without planning permission. 

Gemma Medden and Gareth Fisher's extended cottage in Hornby, North Yorkshire. Hero house for September

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

10. Combine two buildings without planning permission

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, and therefore without planning permission. 

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 credit: van Ellen + Sheryn)

11. Change gates, fences and walls without planning permission 

You can erect, maintain, improve or alter a gate, fence or wall, providing it doesn’t exceed 1m tall, if next to a highway, or 2m for any other boundary. For listed buildings, you’ll need to apply for planning permission.

See our fencing and garden gate design ideas for inspiration for yours.

spear top tall wrought iron gate mounted on brick pillars

12. Invest in a swimming pool without planning permission

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. Bear in mind that swimming pools are not popular with everyone, so if you're thinking of selling up any time soon, this is something you need to consider very carefully.

Find out more about adding a swimming pool in our guide.

(Image credit: Chris Snook)

13. Add exterior cladding without planning permission

Timber, stone and render are all popular types of external cladding and can usually be added without planning permission 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.

Read our guide to external cladding to find out more.

a timber clad mobile home in the New Forest

(Image credit: Nigel Rigden)

14. Create a decked area without planning permission

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.

See our decking ideas to get inspiration for your scheme. Tiny plot? We've got small garden decking ideas, too.

Decking in a small garden

(Image credit: Garden House Design )

15. Install solar panels without planning permission 

Solar panels can be added to your home without planning permission, 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 credit: Douglas Gibb)

16. Add a driveway without planning permission

Adding a driveway without planning permission is allowed, providing any surface over 5sq 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, and you can't access a driveway without a dropped kerb. Use our guide to adding a driveway to find out more.

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

(Image credit: Nigel Rigden)

17. Convert a basement without planning permission

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.

Find out how to convert a basement in our guide.

basement conversion in terraced house image by jody stewart

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

18. Convert a building without planning permission

It is possible to convert a disused building, such as a barn, school or church for residential use without planning permission. You will need to check what permissions are needed though, if the building is listed or in a conservation area. If it is a barn that you're converting, you'll need to follow the Prior Notification procedure. 

Renovation projection, barn for sale in Lincolnshire

(Image credit: Zoopla)

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