When it comes to our homes, “improve, don’t move” has been the latest mantra, as a jittery economy unsettles property values across the country. The biggest hurdle most of us perceive in doing this? Those two dreaded words: Planning Permission.
Well, what if we told you there was a way – more than one, in fact – to transform your home without jumping through the tedious hoops of official authorisation? The idea that any building work requires Planning Permission simply isn’t true, and if your home is bursting at the seams, you’ll be pleased to know that there are many options for increasing your space without heaps of paperwork and waiting around.
We spoke to Whitehead Builders, a team of experienced builders based in Sussex, about the easiest ways to make the most out of your current home.
1. Internal renovationsInternal changes, such as moving walls, modifying floor levels or reconfiguring the whole layout won’t require any planning permission. As long as you don’t increase the overall footprint of the house, and adhere to all relevant building regulations, you can totally transform your kitchen, knock through bedrooms and build en-suite bathrooms to your heart’s content.
2. Adding skylights
As long as they don’t protrude more than 150mm further than the current roof, installing skylights into your ceiling won’t require Planning Permission. This can be an ideal way to get a little bit more natural light inside your home, particularly if you have shuffled around the layout inside.
3. Single-storey additionsAdding extra, single-storey rooms falls under Permitted Development, although there are certain restrictions. For example, an extension to the rear of your home can only reach 3m away from the original building, unless the property is detached, when it can reach 4m away. Any larger than this (up to 6m and 8m respectively) will require a notification procedure. If you are extending to the side of your property, your addition must be no more than half the width of the existing building.
You will also not be permitted to reduce the size of your garden by more than 50% without planning permission, and your building materials must be a close match to the existing house.
4. Multi-storey extensionsMulti-storey additions to your home are also permitted, providing they don’t extend further than 3m from the original building and remain at least 7m away from the rear boundary. If it feels like your family is constantly on top of each other, using a multi-storey extension to increase a cramped kitchen/diner and add a cosy bedroom or snug upstairs could be the way to get some breathing space.
5. Building a conservatoryConservatories are another popular addition to homes, and can easily double up as a dining room, study or living space. It’s usually quite simple for an experienced builder to extend your central heating into a conservatory space, and installing blinds can help keep the space private when you don’t wish to look out onto your garden.
A conservatory must follow the same rules as other single-storey extensions, with the obvious exception of being built from different materials than the main house.
6. Loft conversionsOne easy way to get a bit more room is to transform a dead space in your current home, like your attic. The structure for a loft conversion should already be in place and reconfiguring it into a comfortable bedroom or living area is usually very cost-effective. You can achieve a bit of extra headroom by installing dormer windows, and/or turning a hipped roof into a gable, which won’t need Planning Permission as long as it’s
7. Garage conversionsAs with loft conversions, turning an existing garage into an extension of your home is normally included within the remit of Permitted Development. You will not be able to increase the size of the garage in any way, but internal changes
8. Energy efficient measuresCommon steps for making your home more energy-efficient are included in Permitted Development. These include upgrading internal insulation and adding insulated render (as long as it does affect the appearance of the building). You can also install solar panels as long as they don’t sit more than 200mm above the plane of the roof.
9. OutbuildingsYou can also construct a single-storey building in your garden, as long as it does not reduce its size by more than 50%, and does not exceed a given height (3m give or take, depending on the roof and its proximity to the property boundary). You won’t be allowed to use it as a main room (like a kitchen or bedroom), but you can relocate your office, garage or secondary living area outside, freeing up more room indoors.
Before getting started, it’s worth noting that if you live in a listed property, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or building affected by another conservation effort, you will be more limited. If this is the case, consult with your Local Planning Authority before starting any work.
Instead of letting the volatile market stand in the way of your dreams about a bigger home, maybe it’s time to roll up your sleeves and employ a little creativity to make the most out of what you already have!