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House extension rules made permanent to cut ‘time-consuming red tape’


Homeowners will be allowed to carry on building large house extensions without full planning permission after the government announced it was making temporary rules permanent

Under the new permitted development (PD) right, homeowners can put a single-storey rear extension on their property extending up to 6m for terraced or semi-detached homes, or 8m for detached homes.

Housing minister Kit Malthouse said the move will help families extend their properties without battling through ’time-consuming red tape’.

’By making this permitted development right permanent, it will mean families can grow without being forced to move,’ he said.

Over 110,000 extensions have been completed since 2014 under the previously temporary rules.

According to the consultation, an ‘appropriate’ fee will be charged for house extension prior approvals, a light-touch planning application used for permitted development.

The latest PD rollout has prompted mixed reactions. Ben Edgley, from London-based con | form architects said while the move was ‘well-intentioned’, he was concerned about loss of control over design quality.

He said: ’PD conditions provide a clear framework for the creation of extensions but being able to skip the planning process means that the process of design can be neglected, often leading to ill-considered, poor-quality schemes.

’With many homes likely to benefit from this permanent rule change, the risk is that these extensions could get larger and therefore become even more unsightly.’

However Eugene Kim, managing director of London-based Extension Architecture, who submits around 300 planning applications for rear extensions every year, said the rule would speed up projects, pointing out that even simple applications take a long time to process.

He said: ‘We find around 70 per cent of clients are oblivious to the fact that a simple planning process usually takes three to four weeks to prepare and two weeks to validate. Then eight or more weeks for the LPA to make a decision.’

Kim also said the permitted development right would help unify approaches across different planning authorities, as different boroughs currently have their own interpretations of guidelines.

Darren Bray, director at Southampton-based Studio B.a.d Architects said while the move could be seen as positive, he thought it could lend itself to ’some rather odd, bizarre and downright strange proposals’.

’Even when I am faced with a small domestic extension, I always get chapter and verse from the local authority and even use a planning consultant so that we can deliver a sympathetic and contextual response.

’We have seen the UK littered with UPVC conservatories over the past 25 years and my concern is that we see a systematic and formulaic response from potential non-architects and companies, that offer a prefab type solution to this, rather than a design-led sensitive response.’

The Local Government Association (LGA) said permitted development rules were ‘taking away’ the ability of local communities to shape the area they live in.

Via pavilions con form architects 02

A permitted development in Sutton by con | form architects

A permitted development in Sutton by con | form architects

Councillor Martin Tett said: ’While we recognise building extensions under permitted development has been popular with homeowners, the planning process exists for a reason’.

The new permitted development right was unveiled as part of a package of planning reforms which also includes relaxed rules on the conversion of shops into offices. 

It follows a government consultation on the legislation change which sought views on a range of measures including rooftop extensions and, controversially, demolishing offices and rebuilding them as homes.

Despite more than half of respondents objecting to allowing rooftop extensions without planning permission, the government has said it intends to introduce the rule.

And, despite strong opposition to proposals to allow offices to be demolished and rebuilt as homes, the government said it was continuing to consider implementing the rule.

The RIBA has said the office demolition proposal was ‘both outrageous and baffling’, adding: ’We firmly stand by the point that quantity cannot be achieved at the expense of quality.’

The government’s rollout of permitted development rights has faced heavy criticism in part due to concern over the quality of office-to-residential conversions.

Last month, Labour pledged to scrap the planning loophole, which it said had allowed developers to dodge affordable housing requirements and build ’slum housing’.


Readers' comments (8)

  • The PD rules are very restrictive in terms of design and materials. On selling properties solicitors are wanting a certificate of lawfulness for new extensions anyway, to prove they are PD. This lawfulness app is nearly the same as a full planning, with basically the same requirements for information and is only marginally cheaper. As such PD isn't that useful a route in reality for most extensions in my experience.

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  • I'm sorry, but this article is not a reflection of reality. Under the Prior Approval process, immediate neighbours still have to be consulted, so these larger extensions can still be stopped by those parties, requiring applicants to revert back to the Certificate of Lawfulness route, which takes the standard 8 weeks (or longer in my experience).

    Many Local Authorities I have worked in also require the Certificate of Lawfulness to be submitted after gaining Prior Approval, thus extending the process even further.

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  • Bryan Davies, completely wrong. In the green belt around Guildford, Woking and Mole Valley, town planning has become totally intellectually bankrupt in its approach to extensions in the green belt. When a house has previously been extended to the maximum allowed in the Green Belt, Permitted Development Rights often remain and enable householders to build extensions which would otherwise be refused. Such refusals are made on floor area alone, even when they may be hidden from all angles by being, say, in the inner angle of an "L" shaped plan, and thus not "harmful to the openness of the green belt", one of the principal policy reasons for refusal. Guildford have even rejected a basement, completely concealed beneath the house, because it was deemed "harmful to the Green Belt", which bis absolutely not the case, hence my argument that Town Planning officers are now intellectually bankrupt, have lost the spirit of green belt policy, and are enacting extreme interpretations without applying reasonable judgement. Therefore PD has become an essential element to side-step their lack of reason. For those working in the above areas we are now being refused planning applications for extensions within the Green Belt Max floor area and completely acceptable, because PD rights remain elsewhere on the property and would, if built after approval of the applied for extension but before its construction, extend the house beyond the Green Belt proportional maximum. Approval conditions to remove PD rights are not considered as counter-measures because removal has virtually never been upheld at appeal.

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  • Andrew Hanson

    I welcome any reduction in red tape but my experience is that local authorities make enormous efforts to prove that applications are not PD, sometimes using ridiculous arguments, concurrently complaining that they are over worked and under staffed

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  • In ordinary suburbs - where gardens are already blighted by large sheds, illegal builds and more - this will mean more concrete, less green space and more problems for neighbours. A shame.

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  • Chill out Atticus. Maybe you should try to work with the local planners rather than seeing them as your enemy to be avoided through legal loop holes.

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  • I am retired, but have made a bit of money, etc. from construction over the years; so thanks construction industry; however: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/britain-just-declared-climate-emergency-what-happens-next/ how does that sit with concreting over substantial areas of England?

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  • Why shouldn't a homeowner not be allowed to extend their home at the rear if it does not affect anyone even if it is ugly and/or sub-standard (whatever this means as they will still need to meet Building Regs)?

    The whole planning regime for minor domestic works is ridiculously restrictive and time consuming and everyone's time would be much better spent giving more consideration to larger projects where rubbish often gets built.

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