We’re looking at planning permission for extensions. Maybe you’re building a conservatory or converting your garage or in my case, building an extension that’s so small I thought I’d be able to build it without that planning permission UK application under what they call ‘permitted development rights’ but I was wrong.
Permitted Development Rights were introduced to make it easier to extend your home, cut red tape, empower you and spread peace and harmony throughout the land.
Parliament granted this right rather than your local authority and you’d think that parliament trumps all, but that’s not always the case because your council can issue an Article 4 direction which takes away your automatic right to develop.
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If you’re surrounded by character and charm, they don’t want you spoiling it. So, Conservation Areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Sites, basically anywhere where posh people live are off-limits, so you’d think that puts me in the clear?
I built my extension 20 years ago, which means I can’t now build an extension on my extension without applying for planning permission. I’m keeping my fingers crossed because I’ve already started digging.
So the good thing about living in a charmless area that nobody cares about is that you can get away with more. If you’re eligible, and I urge you to check before you start, you can extend your house with a single storey up to 50% of your curtilage which usually means your garden, unless your garden looks like Buckingham Palace.
You can also build a loft extension with a dormer provided you hide it around the back. You can also build at the back of your house up to 8 metres on a single storey if your house is detached or 6 metres if you are in a semi-detached or terrace. There is also a restriction on height, and this is usually 4 metres from ground level.
Now some years ago I did some work for a multi-millionaire and we built an extension that exceeded the 4-metre height. The neighbour complained, the man from the Town Hall came round with his tape measure and the millionaire was ordered to reduce the height.
But he was not a millionaire by accident. He told us to get a JCB in and build up the ground around the extension by half a metre. The man from Town Hall came back to check the measurement and there was nothing the council or the neighbour could do about it.
Now we want to get on with our neighbours and avoid disputes and Permitted Development can be subject to neighbour consultation, so have a chat with them and make sure they’d be happy. Let’s suppose you want to build two floors and do something that falls outside of the Permitted Development. You then need to apply for planning permission.
Planning Permission Process
This is a strange process because the people who green-light building your dream home are councillors who form the planning committee. And what qualifies them for this job? Nothing at all.
I knew some of the councillors on my local planning committee, they were nice well-intentioned people but they knew nothing about building or architecture and their decisions were as much governed by what side they got out of bed as anything else.
Democratic rights allow you to attend the planning meeting but you can’t try and influence the deliberation with well-timed coughing and if it goes against you don’t storm the chamber or let off a stink bomb, this isn’t France!
They say a good design gets your planning application through, but what is good design? Bear in mind the buildings we consider the finest in the land were all built before the Town and Country Planning Act came into force.
I’m not suggesting that we remove all restrictions but what we have now is vague, subjective and inconsistent. It involves concepts such as ‘in keeping’ and tasteful which changes all the time.
The extension I built years ago had to be set back from the frontage and lowered so it was subordinate. Two years later the person down the road has built an extension which sits in line with the front of an identical house and the roofline continues through at the same height. What happened was a local election and a change of personnel on the planning committee.
If you’re unlucky enough to have your application turned down, take heart because you can appeal and, in my experience, appeals have a good chance of succeeding. So take heart and soldier on but be prepared to compromise.
Do not, under any circumstances build first and ask later because, although in theory, you can get retrospective permission there are many cases of people having to demolish, or stand clear and watch somebody else demolish, their home.
Up next in this series, we’re taking a look at the minefield which is the Building Regulations and how you might navigate them or get blown up in the process.
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