Extensions & annexes – new rules floated

The government is consulting on changes to permitted development rights. These rights allow owners to carry out work on their houses without making a planning application to the council.

The proposal is to increase the maximum depth of single-storey domestic extensions from 4m to 8m for detached houses. For other houses it would increase from 3m to 6m. The relaxation would last for three years. The rules for two-storey extensions would not change. Other limitations would remain the same, including no more than 50% of the garden being covered, maximum height of 4m and, where the eaves would be higher than 3m, it must not be within 2m of the boundary.

The relaxations would not apply in protected areas, such as conservation areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The government estimates up to 40,000 families a year would take advantage of these proposals, building extensions for growing families or elderly relatives, without unnecessary costs and bureaucracy.

What the point is of making the change temporary is not clear. Maybe it is to assess how many horrendous extensions get built? There would certainly scope for that. An 8m extension 4m high is a fair lump of building. If this comes to pass, there will be some architectural disasters and some unhappy neighbours. Whether there are thousands of people just waiting to add large single-storey extensions would remain to be seen. Having said that, if you want to add substantial extra space, it would be handy. This would be especially true where the council has refused permission in the past or has planning policies limiting the depth of extensions. Also, if you want to build a replacement house, the extra permitted development could help justify a larger re-build.

Another question is how much ‘cost and bureaucracy’ this would actually save. It is often sensible to make a lawful development certificate application to get council confirmation that a proposed extension would be permitted development.

At the same time, the government is asking whether there is scope to use permitted development to make it easier to carry out garage conversions to annexes for immediate relatives. The document says the use does not usually require planning permission and external alterations are mostly permitted development. However, not all councils and inspectors take this view. Where annexes have a kitchen and bathroom, they sometimes class them as separate units. If the government wants to encourage this, it could create a new permitted development class. This could allow the use of any building in the garden of house as an annexe – whether self-contained or not. Better still, it could also allow building new annexe outbuildings. This is currently outside the scope of permitted development rights.

At this stage, these are only consultation proposals. Councils have already protested so the changes might never see the light of day. We will see what finally emerges. Watch for future posts.

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