Planning changes explained: “Extra storeys without permission”

Whitfield Architects – 22 July 2020

News headlines say that people can soon “add an extra two floors to their houses without needing full planning permission” – but what does this actually mean?

Changes to current planning laws are due to take effect in September 2020 and have been widely criticised by local authorities and building professionals. However, as with all planning matters, the changes are subject to various restrictions.

What are the restrictions?

To build additional storeys, homeowners will still need to go through a planning process, as an alternative to a full householder planning application. While technically less complex, this process will feature several similar elements.

In summary, the rules include:

  • Before building, prior approval must be confirmed by the local authority
  • This process takes 8 weeks, after submission of proposals
  • Prior approval will depend on consideration of proposed architectural features and the potential impact on neighbours (e.g. overshadowing, privacy), among other matters
  • Various parties will be consulted (neighbours will be notified of the proposals)
  • The original property must have been built after 1 July 1948
  • The property must not be within a Conservation Area, or any other protected area or site
  • Before commencing construction, a report must be prepared to explain how impact on neighbours will be minimised

More information can be found in sections 7.5 to 7.14 of the Government’s explanatory memorandum.

As with all building projects, developments must also comply with building regulations. These relate to issues such as fire safety, building materials, structural details, drainage and more (see our services for more details).

What is prior approval?

Prior approval is part of the UK’s existing Permitted Development (PD) system, which already allows homeowners to make some changes to their property without obtaining full planning permission. More information about this can be found on the Government’s Planning Portal.

For example, a single-storey rear extension of 3m or less can be added to a semi-detached house within PD rights, if its materials match the original house and other PD guidelines are followed. Meanwhile, a larger extension may be added via the Neighbourhood Consultation scheme (also part of PD), which determines the need for prior approval.

Even in these cases, it is advisable to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate to confirm that your proposals are legally sound. This is another process that takes 8 weeks following submission – and again, is very similar to a planning application, from the perspective of a homeowner.

Want to extend your home (legally)?

Whether you wish to extend your home upwards or outwards, we can design new plans and exteriors and advise you on the next steps.

We can also prepare and undertake submissions to the local authority, including neighbourhood consultations, Lawful Development Certificates and full planning applications. Within this service, we monitor progress and liaise with the planning department on your behalf, including negotiations over design and technical issues where necessary.

Simply contact us with details of your property and proposals, then we’ll provide a fee estimate for you to consider.

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