If you want to make changes to your house you will need planning permission from the local authority. You pay a fee, submit forms and drawings and they will consider your proposal against a raft of national and local authority guidelines, send your scheme out to consultation to various bodies such as the highways agency and parish council, notify the public of your intentions, make a recommendation to the planning committee and hey presto, eight weeks later you have permission. Easy. Then in 1995 legislation was introduced to grant a general permission for all kinds of small project alterations to houses, known as permitted development rights. These rights are for minor and proportionate changes, such as a small and not too tall rear extension in materials matching the existing building, or a new porch, roof light or rear facing dormer window. Permitted development rights are not an award from the local authority but belong to your house. Within the legislation is provision (under article four of the document) for the local authority to protect houses in conservation areas (such as Moseley Conservation Area) from permitted development and the rights do not apply to listed buildings, but in general permitted development is extremely popular. You can read all about it here. If you want all the gory details they are here (this is due to be replaced any day now with newer and more gory details. You know you can pay someone else to read these for you).
Having a project that is permitted under PD is usually quicker and cheaper than going through local authority approval – I usually send off details of the scheme to the local authority to get confirmation that we are in compliance and then we are good to go to building control. PD has a particular benefit to my clients living in terraces who want to extend into the garden to have a larger back room downstairs or to open up into the kitchen. If they fall within the guidelines, PD projects can avoid the right to light of the neighbour’s overlooking windows, which would otherwise make the rear extension smaller, shorter and narrower. Under PD you can go back 3 metres from the original or 1948 rear wall of your house, regardless of your neighbour’s right to light. If you made the same proposals under a planning application, the local authority would have to refer to its own policies to decide whether or not your neighbour’s light was affected. If your house is detached you can go to 4m under PD.
In September last year, Eric Pickles announced that he would be relaxing the planning rules to allow for rear extensions, so that proposals would be permitted going back twice as far – 6m or 8m. At the time I dismissed this as a bit of political bluster, but somehow Mr P has managed to bulldoze the legislation through in very little time with only one major concession – a right of objection from the neighbours. This creates a third route to lawful development – a special permitted development if you like. The new rules are only for single storey rear extensions built between 30 May 2013 and 30 May 2016 and article four still applies. You can read about the new rules here. The ink is still wet on this rough of the neighbour consultation scheme here.
I am still a little bit sceptical of how it will work in practice, so I looking for a client who would like to try it out. My ideal client has a terraced house with a kitchen wing downstairs that is a bit more than 3m long and would like to extend out to make a family kitchen / dining room by building a new back wall in line with the end of their kitchen and knocking through to make a big old space, like this one:
This one was done under the old PD – it’s less than 3m. The client has added about 6m2 to the old kitchen and back room and knocked through. Not every house is laid out to allow this and of course yours might end up looking quite different, but you could end up with a new best room in the house. Check for the position of your stairs for means of escape and make sure you can still get into your garden if you have an alley access. Offer ends 30 May 2016 – and there will still be an architect’s fee.