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Planning Permission 101: Know Your Rights

Acquiring planning permission is vital to the success of any development project. Whatever work you have in mind, the planning policy environment is a key consideration – since no project that imposes on its physical surroundings can be actioned without getting these permissions first.

Navigating your way through the world of planning applications and development matters can be tricky without the benefit of expert insight – and at Unit One Architects, we help homeowners and developers get approval on their projects whatever the brief.

Criteria are near-infinite when it comes to the stipulations surrounding planning permission, to the point where minute details can dictate the overall viability of a development project. Acquainting yourself with UK building regulations and Permitted Development (PD) criteria is a guaranteed way of ensuring your architectural ambitions have a better chance of success – and today we’re giving readers a breakdown of the basics.

Planning Applications

Applying for planning permission is an essential part of the development process, whether you’re embarking on a large-scale development project or looking to make significant structural alterations to your home. Planning applications can be submitted online via the UK government’s Planning Portal, where you’ll find a wealth of tools and resources surrounding development matters.

Planning permission costs vary depending on the nature of the development – and the Planning Portal calculator works out how much you’ll be charged for your application. Based on the work involved, and the effect this will have on the architectural environment, this nifty tool will calculate exactly what your planning application will cost and get you one step closer to government approval.

Permitted Development

Depending on the work you’re looking to do, there are a number of cases where building without planning permission is okay. Permitted Development rights cover all types of development that are permissible without the need for an application. There are some key areas where PD does not apply, like conservation areas and areas with an Article 4 Direction – and there are also different versions of PD rules for terraced, semi-detached and detached houses. The devil really is in the detail, so please contact Unit One Architects for more information on all criteria surrounding Permitted Development.

If you’re ready to kick-start your architectural project but aren’t sure whether an application is the first step for you, here are some of the cases where PD may be possible:

  • Single storey extensions & conservatories: planning permission isn’t required for extensions limited to one storey – including conservatories – provided the materials are similar to that of the main structure and the extension doesn’t sit forward of it. Rear extensions mustn’t be more than 4m deep in the case of a detached house, or 3m where semi-detached and terraced houses are concerned.
  • Two storey extensions: these fall under PD if they’re built at the rear of the property- and this includes adding a second storey to a part of the house. The extension shouldn’t be more than 3m deep or less than 7m from the property’s rear boundary.
  • Internal remodels: as long as the remodelling planned doesn’t increase the overall ‘footprint’ of the building, internal alterations fall under Permitted Development rights – so no permission is required here. The same is true of modifying internal space to be used as a private garage.
  • Windows & doors: in some cases, planning permission is required when altering windows or doors within a building. Bay windows are classed as home extensions – meaning they must adhere to the caveats outlined above – while you’ll need to follow UK building regulations when adding or expanding other windows and doors throughout a property.
  • Parking: homeowners can add a parking area to their property without seeking planning permission, as long as the hard surface used is made from porous materials or provisions are in place to transport runoff water to a porous area on the land surrounding the property rather than onto the road.
  • Porches: as long it doesn’t exceed 3m² in size and is not within 2m of a boundary adjacent to the highway, a residential porch can be added to a property without making a planning application.
  • Decking: raised platforms that exceed 30cm in height are subject to planning permission – but structures like garden decking that are below this height are exempt, assuming they meet the criteria specified in the Planning Portal.
  • Sheds/outbuildings: PD allows for multiple outbuildings to be added, as long as these don’t occupy more than 50% of the land immediately surrounding the property. As with extensions, outbuildings aren’t permissible if they sit forward of the principal elevation and must serve a purpose incidental to the property itself – for example, operating as a garage or gym.
  • Basements: incorporating a basement into your property offers a wealth of extra internal room without the inconvenience of minimising garden space. Basements are now classed under Permitted Development, although this doesn’t extend to engineering work.
  • Loft conversions: Under PD, lofts can be altered to include dormer windows – helping you to utilise attic space without seeking governmental permission. These windows must not, however, sit any higher than the property’s existing roof or exceed the principal elevation of the roof plane.
  • Solar panels: as long as they protrude no more than 20cm from the wall or roof and are no higher than the roof itself, solar panels fall under permissible developments. If the property is in a Conservation Area, some restrictions may apply – and, subject to government criteria, standalone solar panels are also an option.
  • Swimming pools: building a swimming pool adjacent to your home not only adds to the fun and aesthetic impact of the property, but can also add significant property value. Assuming the pool covers no more than 50% of the garden space, as with sheds and outbuildings, no planning permission is required.
  • Converting two properties into one: a clever alternative to greatly extending your property or moving to a new home is to transform a pair of flats or semi-detached houses into one property – and this can be completed under PD. The same is not true in reverse, though – as separating one property into two will almost certainly require you to submit a planning application.

Whatever development project you have in mind, finding the right architect for the job is key. With a breadth of expertise across residential architecture, development consultancy and interior design, Unit One Architects have the architectural acumen and creative vision to bring your project to life. And if you can’t progress without permissions, our experience in helping clients unlock a diverse array of development projects means we can help you on the route to planning permission.

If you’re ready to explore planning permission for your development project or would like to discuss your options with expert planning consultants, contact Unit One Architects today.