6 Major Home Improvements You Can Do Without Planning Permission

Whether you’re planning to extend, upgrade or remodel your home, you may not need planning permission.

The government has recognised that many homeowners would like extra space but do not want to relocate. They also appreciate that land is at a premium and adding extra space to existing homes is one way to ease the pressure that’s currently affecting the housing market.

Permitted Development Rights allow many homeowners to make significant changes to their home. These rules apply to most houses but not flats or maisonettes. Commercial development rights are also different to those that apply to domestic dwellings.

Tip: Even projects that are outside the scope of the planning permission rules still need to meet Building Regulations.

Your First Step

You may be able to make changes to your home without planning permission if you do not live in:

  • A Conservation Area
  • A National Park
  • An Area of Outstanding Beauty
  • A World Heritage Site
  • The Suffolk or Norfolk Broads
  • A Listed Building

Assuming none of the above applies to you, your first step is to check your local authority hasn’t implemented Article 4. This article allows local councils to override the Permitted Development Rights for specific areas:

Article 4 directions are made when the character of an area of acknowledged importance would be threatened. They are most common in conservation areas – Planning Portal

If Article 4 has been applied, you’ll need to apply for planning permission via the usual route.

Loft Conversions

Windows in loft converted space

Loft conversions are one of the most popular methods of creating extra living space; they’re also the least disruptive as most of the work is done from the outside. The only work that needs to be done indoors is the staircase and some piping and wiring.

Over 75% of all loft conversions in the UK are completed under “Permitted Planning” rules, in other words; no planning permission was required.

Some rules need to be followed if you want to avoid planning permission:

  • The height of the extension must not be higher than the original height of the property.
  • The extension must not extend laterally beyond the original width or length of the property.
  • Dormers can only be constructed at the rear of the roof (although roof windows can be used to the front).
  • No more than 40 cubic metres in size for terraced homes and 50 cubic metres for semi-detached or detached dwellings.
  • Side windows must be obscured.
  • No verandas or balconies.
  • The materials must be similar in appearance to the original structure.
  • Loft conversions are not permitted in certain areas.

Pro Tip:

The Planning Portal is the best place for information about loft conversions, permitted developments and planning permission rules.

We’ve also created an in-depth price guide for loft conversions.

Front Porches

A front porch can dramatically improve the appearance of the property.

It also creates a practical space for shoes, coats and other items that would otherwise need to be stored inside the home.

If the front door of your property only has a canopy or if the door leads directly into your front room, consider building a full porch. Not only will you create useful storage space, you could also add value to your property.

You can construct a porch without applying for planning permission provided that:

  • The total floor area of the front porch does not exceed 3 square metres
  • It is not higher than 3 metres
  • No part of the porch is within 2 metres of the boundary, a public path or a road
  • The front entrance door must be kept in its original location (i.e. you can’t have an open plan porch).

You can construct a larger porch but you would need to go down the planning permission route.

Pro tip:

Our guide to front porch prices has plenty more information including links to the relevant government website pages.

Garage Conversions

Most internal garages are rarely used to store cars and instead become a storage ground for items that could be relocated elsewhere.

Internal car garages can be converted into a habitable space, and in most cases, this doesn’t require planning permission as you’re not technically “extending” your home. All the work is done inside the original footprint of the building.

A recent survey of property experts revealed that a typical garage conversion would increase the price of an average home by up to 10%.

The cost of a straightforward internal garage conversion starts at around £800 per square metre, this assumes the space will be converted to a playroom, dining room or similar.

If you want to extend the kitchen into the new space or you want to create an open plan kitchen diner, this will involve significant remodelling of the area and steel joists to support the upper walls.

A single garage conversions costs around £14,000 – £20,000 depending on whether the garage is internal or attached and the quality of the finish.

Relocating gas meters and other utilities such as electricity meters, consumer units and broadband cables etc. will also add to the cost as well as using the services of an architect.

Our in-depth guide to garage conversion costs can be found here.

Pro tip:

Planning permission is not usually required, providing the work is internal and does not involve enlarging the building.

Planning Portal

Single Storey Extensions

Single storey extensions are one of the most popular ways to add extra space to almost any home.

You might be able to build a single-storey extension under the Permitted Planning route if:

  • It’s not a front extension.
  • Side extensions fronting a highway cannot be constructed under the Permitted Planning route.
  • Side extensions (and not fronting a highway) must not be greater than 50% of the width of the original building (exc previous extensions).
  • Side and rear extensions must not be higher than 4 metres (roof top to ground).
  • Rear extension depth not greater than 3 metres for an attached house or 4 metres for a detached dwelling – these rules have been temporarily relaxed but are subject to a Neighbour Consultation Scheme,
  • The eaves and roof ridge must not be higher than the eaves/roof ridge on the original house.
  • If the extension is within 2 metres of the boundary, the eaves must not be higher than 3 metres.
  • Extensions must not occupy more than 50% of the total area of land around the original building (when it was built, so include existing extensions in your calculations).

Pro tip:

Head over to this page on the Planning Portal website for more information about single storey extensions.

Double Storey Extensions

Two-storey extensions can only be constructed under the Permitted Development route if it’s located in the rear garden.

The build must not exceed 3 metres in depth from the building and should be at least 7 metres from the rear boundary.

The roof pitch should also match that of the original roof, as much as possible. The extension should also be constructed from materials that match the original house.

Rules regarding eaves, ridges and balconies are similar to that of single-storey extensions.

Any upper floor windows on the side of the extension should be obscured and non-opening. If an opener is desired, it must be at least 1.7 metres from the floor.

The extension, including any previous extensions AND any existing sheds and outbuildings, must not exceed 50% of the land around the house.

Pro tip:

Our house extension price guide looks at how much you can expect a single or double storey extension to cost per square metre.


Conservatories are one of the most popular ways to increase the floor space of a home.

There are tons of options to choose from, and the roof doesn’t have to be made from plastic or glass, tiles can be used instead. Blinds can be fitted to reduce the amount of light entering the conservatory and to provide you with privacy.

Most central heating systems can be easily extended into the conservatory keeping you warm in the winter. Air conditioning can also be installed to keep you cool during the hottest summer days and evenings.

You may be able to install a conservatory under Permitted Planning rules if:

  • The height does not exceed the height of the original house.
  • It’s not located in the front garden or any side garden that fronts a highway.
  • The width of the conservatory must not be greater than 50% of the original house when it was built.
  • The height must not be greater than 4 metres if located to the side of a house.
  • If located (side or rear) within 2 metres of a boundary, the eaves must not be higher than 3 metres.
  • The conservatory should not extend more than 3 metres beyond the rear wall of an attached house or 4 metres for a detached dwelling.

The government has temporarily relaxed some of these rules but only for a limited time and is subject to a Neighbour Consultation Scheme.

Pro tip:

We’ve created a very informative price guide for conservatories and here you’ll find our guide to conservatory blinds.

The Difference Between Building Regulations and Planning Permission

There is often confusion as to the difference between the Building Regulations and Planning Permission.

Building Regulations are entirely separate from Planning Permission and Permitted Development rules.

While planning permission usually covers the visual impact of your build, access requirements and how it impacts your neighbours and surrounding area, the Building Regulations cover the safety and structural integrity aspects of your development.

This page contains links to relevant parts of the Building Regulations code.

Pro tip:

As a general rule of thumb; you can avoid planning permission by building your extension within a strict set of rules called Permitted Developments. You cannot avoid the Building Regulations, you’ll need to ensure your project adheres to them.

Consider This

This page contains a summary of what you can achieve under the Permitted Planning rules.

You should always consult your local planning authority before proceeding with any work.

Rules and regulations change periodically so make sure you’re familiar with the latest news prior to starting your project.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have their own version of these rules, and they may differ slightly from the rest of the UK.

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