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planning permission for home improvements a brief guide

There's a great deal to consider when it comes to extending your home. Not only do you have to satisfy your own needs, you'll also need to keep the local planning department happy and make sure you play by the rules. Of course, just to keep you on your toes, planning regulations are always in flux and it's easy to get caught out by a new piece of legislation. I have some personal experience here. When I converted 3 Commercial Street in Llantwit Major into apartments and a kitchen design studio, I was forced to remove the rotting joists on both upper floors. The knock on effect was that the new floors needed to comply with new sound proofing regulations and would cost way more than expected.

removed all floors in llantwit major house renovation

The Your Space Living design studio once looked very different. The above image shows how far we stripped it back. But when the floors had to be replaced, a whole new set of regulations came into force. This was an ‘expensive’ experience.

So the lesson learned here is to be up on the regulations yourself or bring in an expert to help you if necessary, before you get in too deep. Here's some information on general building projects that's aimed at helping you improve your general knowledge and prepare you for "Planning Permission Impossible". Don't worry, this message won't self destruct.

Single story extensions don't necessarily require planning permission

Recent changes to Permitted Development (PD) rights mean you can extend as far as 8 meters before you need planning permission. Of course there are a couple of caveats. Firstly, the height of the extension can't exceed 4 meters and it must be at least 2 meters from the rear boundary. On top of that you'll need to fill out a "prior notification" form with details of your neighbours' address. If your neighbours object, you may be forced to apply for formal permission.

single story extension in llantwit major

This simple little extension needed all kinds of planning permission. not only was it part of a bigger renovation but it was also close to drainage and connected to the boundary wall.

Basement conversions may need permission

The requirement for permission is dependent on external factors. If your basement conversion has no effect on the outside of your property, i.e. windows, doors or staircases, you won't need planning permission. But if access to the basement is via an external door, the planning department will need to approve your plans. One thing is for sure, the Building Regulations department WILL need to be involved. They will want to ensure that your conversion is safe and fit for purpose.

Most loft conversions are a "Permitted Development" (PD)

PD rights are in place to cover most loft conversion projects. There are some cases that would require planning permission but they would focus on dorma window design and the roofline changes that might come as a result of the work. The only other complication would be any covenants originally imposed on the structure of the building. I personally think loft conversions are great and if you have a suitable loft space, you should go for it. Loft conversions are a superb way to gain an extra room or two, adding substantial value to your house.

Simple garage conversions get a green light

As long as your garage conversion is to create an extra room in your home, you'll have no requirement for planning permission. However, it's very common for people to turn their garage into a separate dwelling, say for a granny flat. In that case you'll need to jump through all of the planning hoops before you can start.

Building a new house in your garden won't be easy

If you're building a house, you'll need planning permission and have to follow the full gamut of procedures before you can start digging your footings. It might seem unbelievable but the UK is littered with houses that were started and then stopped when permission wasn't granted. Just because you're building on your land, it doesn't give you cart blanch to go putting buildings up without local consideration.

A recent development has been permitted very near to my design studio in Llantwit Major. Essentially it's a very modern retirement home built onto a large side garden plot. This wouldn't have been an easy project to get past planning. Not only is the building very large and very close to it's neighbour, It's also very different from other houses in the area. However, it has been passed and is close to completion. Someone has certainly made a statement with this project.

building on your garden plot

Here are the plans submitted to the Vale of Glamorgan in regards to the building that has now been constructed on a side plot of garden in Llantwit Major.

Converting a bungalow into a house will need more than just permission

Taking a single story dwelling and converting it into a two story house isn't straight forward and you'll need full planning permission before you start. But it's not just that, it's highly unlikely that the footings will be robust enough to handle another floor. This will need to be checked by a structural engineer and you can read all about them HERE.

converting a bungalow into a house

Here is a set of plans for a recent renovation in Ewenny South Wales. The single story bungalow now has a brand new top floor. This will be a stunning home for the owner once it’s completed.

Exterior facade and cladding doesn't need permission

Changing the external appearance of a house doesn't require any permission as long as the materials used are in keeping with the rest of the house and the street. You may require permission if more than 25% of the walls are rendered, re-clad or rebuilt. In these cases, the walls may need to be thermally improved in line with modern regulations.

Changing your mind won't be allowed

As a kitchen designer, I'm always expecting changes right up to the final turn of the screw. But that isn't the case with planning permission. If you are working to an approved design, you'd better stick to the plans as written. If you don't, you could be forced to take action to remedy the situation. You can apply for a minor amendment to the plans and in many cases, such requests are successful. It all depends on how much you've changed your mind.

Listed buildings are a world of regulation

Listed building consent is a complicated process that relies on lots of factors before any approval is given. For example, a Grade 1 listed building would almost certainly not gain planning permission for anything outside of remedial works and repair. For all other grades, there would be a number of hurdles to jump before you'll get the go ahead. That's not to say it can't be done but you'd better make sure you've dotted all the "i"s and crossed all the "t"s.

grade 2 listed building in llantwit major

Bethel Baptist Church in the heart of Llantwit Major is a Grade 2 Listed building. Any building work here will require full planning permission, which may be difficult to obtain.

Garden walls need permission depending on height and location

Building a wall or gate will require planning permission if it's close to a busy road and over 1 meter high. If it's not close to a road, you can go up to 2 meter but you need to be aware of your area and what type of properties you have around you. For example, if your house is next to a listed property or you are part of a conservation area, you'll need to seek permission.

Solar panels are allowed for most houses

The trend for solar panels is still on the rise and for most homes. It falls under the PD rights and that leaves you free to cover your roof tiles in photovoltaic or solar thermal panels. As we've already discovered, listed buildings and conservation areas bring their own complications. However, planning authorities are sympathetic to the needs for eco friendly energy and they'll work with you to find solutions that have minimal visual impact to the property.

If you need more advice

There is plenty of help out there for home improvements of this nature. Architects and quality builders will be happy to advise you and it's well worth seeking out their expertise before you get started. You can always contact me and I would be happy to share my experience, offer guidance and point you in the direction of relevant experts. Your home is likely to be the most valuable asset you own. It's worth your time to research the options and follow the proper channels. That way you'll create a stunning home that you love and add value in the process.

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