Where is Moseley Conservation Area?

Here’s the web page with the map. If you are between Cannon Hill Park and Church Road, Park Hill and Moor Green Lane, then there is a good chance that you are in Moseley Conservation Area. If you want work done under permitted development in this area, there are restrictions – you can email the council to find out what they are at planningandregenerationenquiries@birmingham.gov.uk – or you can ask me to do it for you. Most of the frontages are restricted but you might be able to get permitted development work done to the sides and rear of your house if they are not seen from the street. You can still get work done to the front – you will just need to obtain planning permission.

Notification of Householder Prior Approval

So far I have made two applications for larger permitted extensions. The first raised an objection from a neighbour. The planning officer came round (hi Kerry!) to see if the scheme would be compliant with current planning policy, but it fell foul of the neighbour’s right to light guidance. It was a 3.6m rear extension – 3.0m would have passed under normal PD rules, but not this. You can have as many free goes as you want and the neighbour is set to move, so we will take another shot at the title when the champ retires (sort of).

Larger permitted development application number 2 is a happier tale. We sent off the information on the 17th of September and today we got this:

Prior Approval

So the process takes one month, but one detail you might notice is that the work must be finished on site by 30th May 2016. If you allow twelve weeks on site and four weeks for determination, then if you are making your application after January 2016, you better have your contractor ready to start, with a price, when that letter drops on your doormat (or bleeps into your inbox).

A larger home extension

Since May the 30th this year, the rules governing what you can build onto your house without planning permission have changed. For a three year period, householders can make single storey rear extensions under permitted development rules twice the normal size. So for a terrace, you can extend back 6 metres, not 3, and for detached house you can go back 8 metres, not 4. That’s a lot of extension. In fact I expect very few people to go that far – more building means more money and as the house extends the inner parts of the house get further from the daylight and fresh air.

A01 Existing and Proposed site plan - Grange road

I wrote about changes to permitted development back in June and since then I have been looking for a job to try it out on. I worked on this scheme last year without being able to satisfy the planning officer or the client and now the rules have changed we will try again. I spoke to the planning officer and sent off this site plan, let’s see what comes back.

If you want to apply for Permitted Development – Larger Extensions here’s what to do: Fill in a form like this one and send it off together with a site location plan at 1:1250 (showing the direction of north, the names of two streets and the site outlined in red) and a site plan at 1:200 showing the proposed extension. Make sure you send it to your local authority directly, not to the planning portal – that is for planning permission only, but it has tons of useful information. Seems like a lot of information? You can get in touch with me right here and get some help with it all.

Although the six or eight metre allowance seems like a free-for-all, bear in mind that there are some significant restrictions to permitted development – it does not apply in Conservation Areas, like Moseley Conservation Area, or if your home is special enough to be listed. There are also restrictions on height, width, proximity to boundary, materials and overall size in relation to curtilage (the vacant land around your house). There are also special rules about the geometry of your extension if your house has a projecting wing at the rear – likely to be the narrow kitchen if your house is a Kings Heath terrace.

Birmingham City Council have a pretty tough line on rear extensions that try to fill in between the kitchen wing and the back living room, but permitted development lets people “get around” this prohibition because planning permission is not required. So for client’s looking for a kitchen that is the full width of their house, PD can give a legal route to build. In the case of this project on Grange Road, the client was looking for just this arrangement, and to have the  side return extension finish flush with the end of their house. The client gets a big kitchen, the previous living room becomes a dining area and the end of the house gets folding sliding doors. Very nice. But under the old rules the side return extension could only be 3m deep and the existing kitchen was 3.7m. The extra two feet four inches was not just a spatial problem, but a structural one. To open up the space we need steel beams of modest size, but beams must be straight and must be supported at either end. If the end of the house is not in a straight line, we get not one opening but two, with a support in the middle, so the open end of the house is lost and we get two medium sized openings instead of one big one. Not the same effect at all.

With the changes to PD we can now have the extra 70cms and the scheme is back in contention. Let’s see what they say, my client should be pretty happy if we get an approval.

One of the additional rules for larger extensions is the neighbour consultation scheme. This obliges the council (not the applicant) to notify all adjoining owners of the proposal, in case they wish to comment. What they do with these comments I don’t know – and if you are objecting to your neighbour’s proposal for an eight metre monster your rights are is not made clear. What is shown in the guidance however is the determination period, which is six weeks, and the minimum time for objections to be registered, which is three weeks. Reading the guidance it seems that the amenity to the adjoining owners is the main consideration and that the council will determine whether this is acceptable.

Eric Pickles’ large extension

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.